Children and Gun Safety

Guns are in more than one third of all U.S. households, so they’re a danger to children, whether you own one or not. That’s why it’s crucial to talk to children about the potential danger of guns – and what to do if they find one. If you do own a gun, keep it out of sight and out of reach. Make sure it’s locked and unloaded. Store ammunition in a separate place.

Talking to kids about gun safety: 

Teach kids to follow these rules if they come in contact of a gun:

  1. Stop what you are doing.
  2. Don’t touch the gun.
  3. Leave the area where the gun is.
  4. Tell an adult immediately.

If you have a gun in your home: 

  1. Unloaded firearms should be stored in a locked cabinet, safe, gun vault or storage case. The storage location should be inaccessible to children.
  2. Gun locking devices render firearms inoperableand can be used in addition to locked storage. If firearms are disassembled, parts should be securely stored in separate locations.
  3. Ammunition should be stored in a locked location — separate from firearms.
  4. Thoroughly double check firearms to confirm that they are unloaded when you place them and remove them from storage. Accidents could occur if anyone borrows a gun and returns it to storage while still loaded.

Gun safety outside your home: 

Gun safety doesn’t end when your child leaves your home. Kids can still come into contact with firearms at a neighbor’s house or under other circumstances.  Make sure you talk to your kids about gun safety outside your home.

When using a gun:

Gun use by children should always be under the supervision of an adult. According to the NRA and other gun organizations, four cardinal rules should be followed whenever using a gun:

  1. Always treat firearms as if they are loaded.
  2. Never allow a muzzle of any firearm to point to anything but an intended target.
  3. Never put your finger near a trigger until you are ready to fire it. Do not depend on a mechanical device – “the safety” – for safety.
  4. Always be sure of what is in front and behind the target. 

A word about BB and Non-Powder Guns:

Non-powder guns, such as ball-bearing (BB) guns, pellet guns, and paintball guns, are not regulated by the government, but can potentially cause serious injury.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that kids under 16 not use high-velocity BB guns or pellet guns. In addition, these guns should be used under adult supervision. Kids who use BB guns must know never to point it at anyone, including themselves. In addition, paintball guns have been known to cause traumatic eye injuries, so kids need to wear protective eye gear.

Note: Data from this article comes in part from KidsHealth. This website is a great resource for parents – so it’s worth bookmarking. It’s a nonprofit funded by the Nemours Foundation, and its content goes through a vigorous medical review by pediatricians and other medical experts. The site has earned four Webby Awards (Best Family/Parenting Site and Best Health Site on the Web), the Parent’s Choice Gold Award, the Teacher’s Choice Award for Family, and the International Pirelli Award for best educational media for students.



Keep the Holidays Happy-Toy Safety

With the holiday season upon us, here are a few reminders regarding toy safety.  Always make sure you child’s toy is age-appropriate.  Choking is one of the greatest hazards, especially for children less than 3 years of age.  Ingestion of button batteries and small magnets are particularly dangerous.  Be sure to remind older children with younger siblings to clean up their toys after playing.  In addition, make sure older children wear a helmet when riding their new bicycles and skateboards.  More Information



  Safe Disposal of Medications

It is very important that drugs be disposed of when no longer needed, and that it be done in a proper manner. Old medicines lose their potency and can even become toxic in some cases. Medicines in the house are also a potential source of poisoning for young children. The best way to dispose of drugs is at an approved disposal center. In Knox County there are at least 2 such places.

Knoxville Police Department, 800 Howard Baker Jr Ave., Knoxville 37915 and Walgreen’s Pharmacy, 121 North Northshore Drive, Knoxville 37919. Both are open 24-7.

Disposing of drugs in the sink or toilet can result in water pollution and possibly affect wildlife. Even disposal in a garbage landfill could, in the long run, have toxic effects. Please do what is safest both for your family and for our community by using approved sites to get rid of outdated or unneeded medications.


An Evening Moment

Darkness. Your senses sharpen. Sounds become clearer as you hear the far off howl of a coyote, the call of an owl. Leaves rustle with the sound of wind above and tiny feet below. More and more stars appear as your eyes adjust. The trees cast their shadows from the light of the moon. Shades of gray reveal your way as your feet glide you over an uneven ground. Shadows become sharper as your eyes adjust and the path becomes clearer. The canopy of trees deepen the darkness beneath them and when the sky reappears the stars have filled the sky with brilliant points of light. The stillness of the night that envelops me is interrupted by the low whine of my four legged companion. A reminder that tomorrow is waiting. Time to go back inside.

Tattoos and Piercings

The cultural phenomenon of tattooing and piercing is going strong.  For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recently released recommendations on these practices. On a daily basis in our office, I witness both forms of body art and oftentimes have had to treat complications related to them most commonly local skin infections. While the legal age for tattooing in most states is 18, piercings are often done during mid-adolescence. Because of this, we as parents and pediatricians need to be discussing potential risks of tattooing and piercing starting early in the teen years.

Click here for the AAP recommendations.  


Secondary/Dry Drowning

Although fall is just around the corner, parents are still concerned about  “dry drowning” or “secondary drowning.”  I would like to reassure parents that dry drowning, in the fantastical way the media has portrayed it, is not a true entity. Your child will not have an uneventful day playing in the pool, swallow a mouthful of water that causes no respiratory symptoms, and suddenly die 5 days later from a “dry drowning.” Here are a couple links to articles written by emergency room physicians that explore this issue.



Mosquito Borne Illnesses

For those who have seen recent news reports, the thought of mosquito borne diseases can be scary. Typically, in East Tennessee, we see a significant number of mosquito related illnesses in late summer, mainly in late July, August and September. These illnesses have a wide range of severity, from mild upper respiratory symptoms to severe central nervous system infections. The most common mosquito borne illness in our area is Enterovirus infection. Enterovirus infection typically will cause some fever, body aches, sore throat, and in worse cases where the central nervous system is involved, will cause headaches and upset stomach. Routine Enterovirus infections typically run their course in 3-5 days and do not require antibiotics, since they are viruses and not susceptible to antibiotics. Some of the worst of these cases will require brief hospitalizations for patients with severe headache who need pain control, or those who are vomiting and unable to remain hydrated. These illnesses are uniformly short lived and patients make a complete recovery.

The less common but more serious mosquito borne infections come from a family of viruses called the LaCrosse family. These viruses are transmitted by a mosquito bite, exactly the same way enteroviruses are, but they tend to infect the spinal fluid and brain more frequently than enteroviruses. LaCrosse infections are typically more severe than Enterovirus infections and commonly lead to high fever, vomiting, seizures and other symptoms of meningitis. Unfortunately, like all viruses, these infections do not respond to antibiotics, and patients are treated supportively until they recover. A significant number of patients with LaCrosse Encephalitis will be left with long term problems due to their illness.

Obviously, we want to avoid these illnesses as much as possible. Based on expert recommendations, I routinely recommend using an insect repellent with DEET to my patients. Reasonable parents are extremely unlikely to use enough “bug spray” to cause any toxicity to their children and the risk of getting an illness from a mosquito bite in later summer is very real. Always use insect repellents in a well ventilated area, and do not spray them on the face.

For Good Health, Enjoy the Great Outdoors

I recently traveled and hiked in Norway. During my trip I discovered that every kid goes outside every day of the school year, often in rain and snow, frequently exploring in the woods found nearby. This and many other studies have shown that the Norsemen are educationally pretty smart cookies.

It’s Never Too Early!

It may seem a little early to start talking about the flu, but there are recent publications providing important preliminary recommendations for the upcoming flu season.  Notable is the recommendation that live attenuated influenza virus (LAIV) vaccine (i.e. Flumist) NOT be used for the 2017-18 season so prepare your children for injectable flu vaccine only! This is doubtful to change when final guidelines from the CDC come out later this summer. According to the CDC there were 99 pediatric deaths due to influenza this past season. That’s 99 too many in my opinion! KPA is already preparing for the 2017-18 influenza season and will let you know soon when we’ll begin flu shots. Click here to link to an important article from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).