Ask the Experts: Cyberbullying, Asthma and Spontaneous Combustion

March 18, 2013 by John Oliver

Thousands of people just like you visit every single month. The large majority of you are looking for answers to your safety-related questions. We do our best to share as much information as we can, but we admit that it can be difficult to keep up with every possible topic.

In hopes of answering as many of your questions as possible, we're going to start posting a monthly Ask the Experts feature designed to answer the most interesting questions from the previous month. Take a look below at our first batch of questions from February 2013. If you have a question that you'd like our safety experts to tackle, leave a comment at the end of this post or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter.

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What can I do to make a diaper changing table safer?

Which of these 3 tables looks the safest to you?

None of these diaper changing tables are perfect... and here's why:

  1. The storage available underneath the table is a plus because it helps you keep baby changing supplies within reach. However, the wheels at the bottom, while convenient, can be a potential hazard because they also make the table unstable. If your changing table has wheels, you may want to remove them, or, at the very least, be sure they are securely locked before you begin changing the baby.
  2. The heavy wood makes this table very sturdy, and, like the first example, it has plenty of storage space. The downside to this one is the surface where the baby lies. Ideally, the changing pad should be recessed and/or slightly concave to reduce the likelihood of a child being able to roll off the table.
  3. This table has a recessed surface and guardrails which can keep babies from falling to the floor. It still leaves room for improvement though. Safety straps incorporated into the table can help keep the child still. As children get older you might also consider installing steps leading up to the changing surface to make the diaper changing table safer for adults. Back injuries are common among parents and childcare providers who have to lift heavier children up throughout the day. Steps can offer some relief.

In the market for a new changing table? Consumer Reports has a great changing table buying guide.

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Are social networks encouraging cyberbullying?

The popularity of social networks among teens and adults alike has provided the means for us all to be connected to one another more than ever before. The best in us would like to think of these websites as tools to stay in touch with family and meet new friends, but with 32% of teens reporting they’ve been the victim of cyberbullying at some point, it’s hard to ignore that more than a few are using them for darker purposes.

Researchers on the topic suspect the frequency and cruelty associated with cyberbullying stems from the anonymity that the internet and social networks offer. With traditional bullying, the bully and the victim have to meet face-to-face. This allows the children being bullied to try and avoid it. This isn’t the case with cyberbullying which makes it much easier to do and harder to escape. If social networks don’t encourage cyberbullying they seem to do very little, if anything, to discourage it.

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Can oily rags burst into flames without a spark?

Given the right combination of circumstances, yes, oily rags can catch fire without a spark. Oils left out in the open tend to absorb or gain oxygen from the air around them through a process called oxidation. This process creates heat that can be trapped by the rag holding the oil. If enough heat is allowed to build up and the oil on the rag reaches its autoignition temperature, it can and will start a fire. The autoignition temperature of an oily rag or oil-soaked paper is around 200° F. If you want to reduce the risk of oily rags in your home or business from catching fire you should keep them in well-ventilated areas where heat is unable to build up and never put them in a dyer on a high heat setting.

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As a child care provider, what are some ways I can reduce my stress?

A study conducted by Stanford University concluded that the occupational stress experienced in child care centers could affect the quality of care the providers were able to offer. Knowing this, it is all the more important to effectively manage your stress as a child care provider. Many say their stress arises from tension with children’s parents, coworkers, noise, limited resources at the center, or the stress of the children themselves. The ChildCare Education Institute offers these coping strategies for the kinds of stress common to childcare providers:

  • Get good nutrition and maintaining a regular exercise program. In other words, take care of yourself! The healthier you are, the more able you are to deal with stressful situations in all areas of your life.
  • Use calming breathing techniques in moments of stress (inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts).
  • Take short breaks throughout the day to calm and collect yourself.
  • Plan engaging, sensory experiences for children to calm them and in turn your work environment.

It’s also important to communicate your feelings of stress to your manager or others who are in a position to help you manage it.

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What should I do if someone is having an asthma attack and they don’t have their inhaler?

First, determine if the asthma attack is severe. Severe asthma attacks symptoms include rapid breathing, difficulty talking, anxiety, and a pale face with blue lips or fingers. If the attack is severe, call 911 first! When in doubt, call 911, especially if the person is elderly or a young child. Once help is on the way you can do the following:

  • If possible, move them to a warm or humid area. Cold can sometimes trigger asthma attacks.
  • Have them sit up and lean slightly forward. This reduces pressure on the diaphragm. Don’t let them lie down.
  • Loosen any tight clothing.
  • Have them drink some coffee or tea. The caffeine in them has been found to help relieve asthma attacks.
  • Try to calm them. Not being able to take a breath can be very frightening and panic can exacerbate the attack.
  • Antihistamines can help, particularly if the attack was brought on by an allergen.
  • Ask questions like Do you think your asthma attack was triggered by an allergy? rather than Why do you think you’re having an attack? In the case of a more severe episode it may be difficult to speak. Yes/No questions allow them to communicate by nodding instead of talking.
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Can I get burned by putting my hand under hot tap water?

Yes, hot tap water can burn you if you haven’t taken the necessary steps to prevent it. Both gas and electric hot water heaters allow you to adjust the maximum water temperature. On average, the "High" setting heats water to 140-150F, while the "Warm" setting typically reaches 90-110F. The EPA and many manufacturers recommend setting it at 120F to prevent scalding.

The chart below shows how long it takes water a certain temperature to burn an adult. Keep in mind that children and the elderly can be burned more quickly than adults.

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Your Voice: Answers from Facebook

Each month we'll pose a question for the followers of Child Care Safety on Facebook. We then select our favorite response and share it with you here. Enjoy this thoughtful answer from Deb Nichol-Estes, Owner-Operator at Tiny Tots Child Care and Preschool

Why do parents have high expectations for management of daycare centers?

I am a licensed family child care provider in California. A child is a parent's absolute love! It is important to find a caregiver/teacher that loves your child and his/her new discoveries and accomplishments as much as you do. We caregivers can never be as good as the child's own parent, but we strive to fill in as a very close substitute while parents are away. It is important for parents and providers to work together for the children's best interest.

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