Subh-e-Nau Magazine

Choosing health over fast food in Ramadan   

Junk food has become part and parcel of nutritional intake across nearly all age groups in Pakistan, especially children who are getting introduced to its quick fixes at an early age. This Ramadan is an excellent start to curb this dangerous addiction.   

The problem of junk food, its availability and the resulting obesity that has become rampant among Pakistan’s children and young adults has now reached an alarming situation. Any shop will have the largest variety of chips, biscuits, cakes, chocolates, artificially flavored juices etc., but few will have wholesome, healthy snacks. This Ramadan, we can curb this unsafe appetite, as the month calls for abstinence from unhealthy and unsafe activities.
Why? The dangers that junk foods present are myriad (see box titled “Dangers of fast food”).
The complexity of the diseases associated with junk food, the mental and physical side effects, and even sometimes in the long run associated psychological problems are so interwoven, that very few are actually aware of these. Typically, family members often do not resist in indulging the children by getting them junk food, out of sheer affection. In other cases, children are simply given pocket money without being monitored. While many parents remain unaware of the junk food danger, others are fed up.
True enough, where once lunch breaks in schools saw local vendors wheel in their carts near school premises so children could buy roasted corn-cobs, and chickpeas, today there hardly seems to be any sign of them. Instead, replacing these natural foods, there is more focus in school canteens which provide carbonated drinks, slices of pizza, samosas, packed products like biscuits or chips, high in monosodium glutamate and rich in oils and fat content.
All this along with the fact that Pakistani cooking itself is not specifically known to be fat free makes issues even worse. Local cuisines are supposed to be rich in oils and ghee both. Parathas are eaten in the mornings in many homes, fried eggs are given preference to boiled eggs for instance, and the main dishes are all cooked with a lot of oil. Some people even prefer ghee to oil which is worse. Also families prefer to have four square meals in one day, something which health experts recommend against.
But more than anything else, the rising junk food craze in Pakistan is directly related to the rising obesity in the country. And this trend is more common among young people than adults, although the latter also are subject to its negative effects.
According to a list of the world’s “fattest countries” published on Forbes, Pakistan is ranked 165 (out of 194 countries) in terms of its overweight population, with 22.2% of individuals over the age of 15 crossing the threshold of obesity.
This ratio roughly corresponds with other studies, which state one-in-four Pakistani adults as being overweight. Research indicates that people living in large cities in Pakistan are more exposed to the risks of obesity as compared to those in the rural countryside. Women also naturally have higher rates of obesity as compared to men. Pakistan also has the highest percentage of people with diabetes in South Asia.

The dangers of junk food

Dr Rizwana Waraich, assistant professor at Karachi’s Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD) says that Pakistan is one of those countries where obesity and diabetes are increasing at an alarming rate.
“One out of every four Pakistanis is either obese or overweight,” she says giving startling evidence.
“Obesity is the fifth leading risk for global deaths. About 2.8 million adults die every year only as a result of being overweight or obese. At the same time five out of 10 fatal diseases are associated with obesity, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. People should realize that after a certain amount of time, obesity ceases to remain a cosmetic problem. Very soon it becomes a worse issue.”
Obesity she says is linked to several serious health ailments like heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer among other numerous problems. “Once cardiovascular disease was considered a rich man’s disease, but now this issue has become rampant in middle income countries as well.”
Dr Waraich is grim about the situation faced by Pakistan, especially with a growing culture of a sedentary life style.
“Our nation is now facing a double burden of disease, as we continue to deal with the problems of infectious disease and under-nutrition; we are experiencing a rapid upsurge in non-communicable disease risk factors such as obesity, particularly in urban settings. And at the same time as consuming the wrong kind of diet, there is no culture of physical sports or exercise.”
The fundamental causes of obesity are an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in carbohydrates, fats, salts and sugars and at the same time being low in vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients.
Dr Waraich says the obesity level among rural areas in Pakistan is found to be nine percent in males and 14 percent in women, while in the urban areas, the situation is quite alarming. They are found to be 22 percent in men and 37 percent in women.
As a result, people are becoming more and more “apple shaped”. This means that there is more fat being stored on bellies rather than on the hips or thighs. Apple bodied people are more prone to having cardiovascular diseases. Obesity also increases the likelihood of various diseases, particularly type-2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, certain types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.
“Obesity is most commonly caused by a combination of excessive food energy intake, lack of physical activity, and genes,” says Dr Nazish. “There are other reasons like medications and some disorders, but these are the main causes. One must burn more fat than one consumes.” Not to overlook that it is also one of the main causes of death globally in both children and adults.
Detail of diseases under various medical fields shows problems that occur as a result of obesity, often regardless of age (See Box “Dangers of fast food” for details).

Eating to death

Fast food chains in Pakistan are making a lot of money, mostly at the expense of the public’s health. When the first fast food chains appeared somewhere in the mid 90s, it was definitely unusual. Not that people did not eat out before, or that children did not buy junk food; but with the rising fast food chains, especially foreign franchises, Pakistan’s obesity issue has been directly linked with this. The fact that certain franchises are supported and sponsored by particular soft drink companies makes it no better. In Pakistan, soft drinks have always been in, even if burgers and pizzas have not. Why can’t we stop these behaviors? Ramadan requires us to stay away from excess, hence it is a great place to begin.
Part of the reason for this addiction is also the glamour associated with the junk food chains. Clean utensils, good packing, a proper standard that has to be maintained for a hygienic environment and other aspects continue to attract more and more customers, while for Pakistani cuisine, the usual places do not promise too much on this level, unless the restaurant is expensive.
Also the other reason is a very social one. The customers are mostly middle class people, many of whom are students. The glamour these places have made the places feel more trendy and hip. In other words, it is ‘cool’ to eat there. There are other health aspects that arise from eating these energy dense foods. One of this is diabetes.

 ‘Competing with a business of millions’

“There were days back in the 80s and 90s when perhaps getting junk food was not as easy,” says Dr Khalid, Assistant Professor Medicine at Ganga Ram Hospital, Lahore. He is also a physician and a gastroenterologist. “Today the hundreds of chains of fast food café’s both local and foreign have mushroomed across the country and every corner has a burger or a pizza place. In the past at least one got up to change the channels. Today, remote controls, and work requiring us to sit at the computer all day long have encouraged a sedentary lifestyle.”
Dr Khalid is not alone. He is supported by many other doctors and nutritionists who agree with the fact that there is too much of a inactive lifestyle, accompanied with junk foods, that result in an obese nation.
“How does one counter these problems?” he asks. “By public awareness campaigns which the Pakistan Medical Association does occasionally and by highlighting in the media what effects junk foods have on a person’s health. But how can a small sector of the society compete with the strength of a business of millions and millions?”
In addition to this, there is little access to good food, which also challenges those who cannot afford to eat in the first place.

Malnutrition in Pakistan

Pakistan has an alarmingly high level of malnutrition; 24 percent of the population is undernourished. The most recent estimates by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) state that 37.5 million people in Pakistan are not receiving proper nourishment. The issue is complex and widespread, with deficiencies ranging from protein to iodine, along with other health problems due to insufficient intake of these essential nutrients.
Of course results lead to implications of these nutrient deficiencies upon economic growth and development. Experts through empirical studies suggest that only about three types of malnutrition are responsible for about a 3 to 4 percent of GDP loss in Pakistan in any given year. This has also been confirmed by United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN) and their fifth report on the world nutrition situation.
Malnutrition in Pakistan is usually associated with poverty and the some causative factors include low consumption of food and foods with low nutritional value. There are some major causes though.
First, production and distribution systems are inequitable: although large farmers are small in number, their share in land and production is much higher as compared to small farmers. The agricultural labor force is dominated by small farmers, but their share in land and production is very small and they are among the most vulnerable groups of society. Government policies designed to reduce the concentration of landownership have had some effect, but they made no serious attempt to break up large estates or to lessen the power or privileges of the landed elite. Large landowners retain their power over small farmers and tenants, especially in the interior of Sindh, which has a feudal agricultural establishment. Tenancy continues on a large-scale: one-third of Pakistan’s farmers are tenant farmers, including almost one-half of the farmers in Sindh. Tenant farmers typically give almost 50 percent of what they produce to landlords.
Second, a low income coupled with a higher rate of unemployment (due to factors like weak economic growth, power crisis, and the deteriorating security situation etc.) restricts the access of people to food. Prices of food items are increasing but the income is, either stagnant or decreasing in real terms. Unemployment is also on the rise and the Government of Pakistan despite all its efforts has not been able to cope with this challenge.
Third, an important factor affecting access to food is national governance. International communities and donors may help countries like Pakistan to improve the physical availability of food through food exports, food grants, and food loans, etc; however, their efforts must be supported by good governance at the domestic level which is missing in Pakistan.
Child malnutrition is fast rising. WFP reports that 27 per cent of 2000 children screened are severely malnourished. There is a 20 per cent falling in the moderate category. Approximately 17 percent of surveyed pregnant and lactating women were also malnourished.
The most common and significant nutrient deficiencies are Iodine deficiency, Iron deficiency and protein energy malnutrition.
Iodine deficiency is a major public health problem in Pakistan. The main factor responsible for iodine deficiency is a low dietary supply of iodine. When iodine requirements are not met, thyroid hormone synthesis is impaired, resulting in hypothyroidism and a series of functional and developmental abnormalities, known as Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD). Even today TV advertisements claim to sell brands of salt that contain a substantial amount of iodine.
As a result of iodine deficiency, Goiter is the most visible manifestation. Endemic goiter results from increased thyroid stimulation by thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to maximize the utilization of available iodine and represents maladaptation to iodine deficiency. However, the most damaging disorders induced by iodine deficiency are irreversible mental retardation and cretinism often found in children. If iodine deficiency occurs during the most critical period of development that is from the fetal stage up to the third month after birth it could lead to irreversible alterations in brain function. While cretinism is the most extreme manifestation, of considerably greater significance are the more subtle degrees of mental impairment leading to poor school performance, reduced intellectual ability and impaired work capacity. The recommended strategy for IDD control is based on correcting the deficiency by increasing iodine intake through supplementation or food fortification.
In 1993-4, a WHO survey on iodine status worldwide listed Pakistan as having a “severe iodine deficiency” with 135 million people having insufficient iodine intake. Unfortunately, iodized salt consumption in Pakistan is still only at 17 percent, if one follows the National Nutrition Survey of 2001-2002.
Meanwhile, it is well-documented fact that iron deficiency too leads to impaired cognitive development and poor performance in school.
Iron deficiency is one of the most prevalent nutritional disorders and has a large impact on economic productivity too. Recent estimates of income foregone as a percentage of GDP are 5.2 percent for Pakistan, according to the UN report on world nutrition situation. This depends on the extent of deficiency and the returns to educational attainment in the labor market.
Iron in the body works in important functions. It primarily acts as a carrier of oxygen to the tissues from the lungs in the form of hemoglobin, as a transport medium for electrons within the cells (in the form of cytochromes), and as an integral part of enzyme reactions in various tissues. Too little iron can interfere with these vital functions and lead to morbidity and death.
Symptoms of iron deficiency are not unique to iron deficiency but since iron is needed for many enzymes to function normally, a wide range of symptoms may eventually emerge, either as the secondary result of the anemia, or as other primary results of iron deficiency. Symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, dizziness, pallor, hair loss, irritability, weakness, pica, brittle or grooved nails, Plummer-Vinson syndrome: painful atrophy of the mucous membrane covering the tongue, the pharynx and the oesophagus, impaired immune function, pagophagia, restless legs syndrome, etc.
The third type of nutritional deficiency most common in Pakistan is Protein-Energy Malnutrition.
This is also very common in Pakistan and leads to a condition called kwashiorkor. Lack of protein can cause growth failure, loss of muscle mass, decreased immunity, and weakening of the heart and respiratory system. A survey by WHO showed that the number of underweight pre-school children (0-5 years of age) in Pakistan comes to about 40 percent. Such children often remain weak and undernourished throughout their lives.

Role of The Food Industry

The issue of malnutrition can be a major opportunity for food companies especially in terms of Consumer Social Responsibility. The possible solution lies in the widespread availability of essential nutrients in low cost food products. Food companies can help by utilizing their existing resource and development capabilities to develop low-to-moderate-cost nutritional foods. Using a bit of ingenuity, this can be achieved with low additional costs to the company and a long-term product investment with guaranteed gains. National Foods Limited is an example in this context.
A pioneer in the Pakistani food industry, ISO:9001 & HACCP certified NFL has been providing consumers with pure food products since 1970 and is the market leader in branded refined salt, with about a 90 percent share. In response to the iodine deficiency issue, NFL launched iodized salt in 1991. Then several years were spent in collaboration with UNICEF to promote the use of iodized salt across Pakistan. The result is that today half of the sales volume of NFL’s refined salt is taken up by the iodized variant. 

Home grown

If anything seems to be a key solution to this issue it is managing agriculture properly. Food security arises out of lack of access to good, nutritious food, but this food is apparently just not available simply because either it is not grown in abundance, or it is not sold properly.
But while there is sometimes an overabundance of wheat, the stock is hoarded, while the wheat sent in the market is sold with raised prices – obviously a doomsday call for the general public, especially those belonging to the lowest rungs of the socio-economic ladder.
This is the prospect of a bumper crop in Pakistan. The same goes for sugar and rice and other such commodities. But the issue remains that many other crops are not given importance by farmers. The reason is a cycle that keeps repeating itself.
Nutritious food is not widely accepted. This is a kind of mentality that has been reigning over the decades adding to the fact that local cuisines are ghee and oil based with a lot of sugar used for desserts. But these attitudes are further established by a ruling fast food industry. This generally also points to those food companies which produce processed food. (Fast food is found in restaurants which is prepared on the spot). Since obesity is a multifaceted health issue that involves biological, behavioral, and environmental sources, it should be understood that an energy imbalance sits at the core of the obesity problem, because weight gain results from consuming more calories than one expends.
But while agro-based solutions are integral to cutting down the amount of processed food and replacing it with fresh food, it is a difficult task to stop the proliferating processed food industry.
The food industry should help the consumer make healthy food choices, but unfortunately this is not really happening. Industry should be committed to giving clear, consistent, and honest product claims, as well as working with retailers and restaurants to offer consumers relevant information about the products they purchase. Industry should promote nutrition education at all levels, from public schools to medical schools, and enhance nutrition awareness at the consumer level. It can create new products that meet individual nutritional needs, reformulate existing products to be healthier, and provide controlled portion sizes.
In doing so, industry faces the challenge of satisfying consumer expectations for taste, quality, and price. The hope is that industry can develop healthier products by partnering with science-based communities and the government.
And it is not impossible. Neither are companies going to run losses if they work with fresh food only. A franchise of fresh food cafes in Pakistan are doing quite well, as well as they are doing anywhere else in the world. Their choices are always based on fresh vegetables, non-greasy food, unprocessed meat (with a focus on chicken), and healthy wheat based (again, unprocessed) bread for their sandwiches. Hardly is there any room for making a ‘wrong’ decision while at their restaurants. It is also a visibly popular place with people from all walks of life visiting.
Other food companies should also think about providing their consumers with healthier choices replacing the typical meal of a burger consisting of fried chicken, with mayonnaise slapped on, filled with cheese and placed in a greasy bun. Countries with increasing obesity rates should seriously consider giving such businesses a thought. Once introduced low-calorie foods and nutritious meals including deli meats, breads, soups, and desserts will be appreciated by consumers too.
In other words, to help fight the battle against obesity and malnutrition, the food industry must team up with the government, academia, and the medical community to help inform consumers, strengthen nutrition education, and develop healthier product choices. And Ramadan is a time when we can all make this positive change in our lives by banning these dangers altogether.

Keeping ‘fresh’ at home

Like cooking shows, home gardens too are a slowly increasing trend, but definitely more low profile, since most people do this out of their own interests. Also time needs to be devoted. But Pasha is a strong advocate of this alternative especially with regard to obesity.
Some food experts believe that the main reason given for increasing or maintaining an edible garden is to supplement the household food supply, to help them save money on food. That alone is a very powerful reason. Growing your own fruits and vegetables means that you know exactly what does and does not go into your food and exactly where it comes from. You will get healthier in a number of ways. So, in this holy month, consider changing your lifestyle from binging on fast food to eating healthy and home grown foods.

Dangers of fast food

Cardiology
  • heart disease: angina and myocardial infarction
  • congestive heart failure
  • high blood pressure
  • abnormal cholesterol levels
  • deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism
Dermatology
  • stretch marks
  • acanthosis nigricans
  • lymphedema
  • cellulitis
  • hirsutism
  • intertrigo
Endocrinology and Reproduction
  • diabetes mellitus
  • polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • menstrual disorders
  • infertility
  • complications during pregnancy
  • birth defects
  • intrauterine fetal death
Gastrointestinal
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • fatty liver diseases
  • cholelithiasis (gallstones)
Neurological
  • stroke
  • meralgia paresthetica
  • migraines
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • dementia
  • idiopathic intracranial hypertension
  • multiple sclerosis
Oncological
  • breast, ovarian
  • esophageal, colorectal
  • liver, pancreatic
  • gallbladder, stomach
  • endometrial, cervical
  • prostate, kidney
  • non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma
Psychiatry
  • depression in women
  • social stigmatization
Respirology
  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • obesity hypoventilation syndrome
  • asthma
  • increased complications during general anaesthesia
Rheumatology and Orthopedics
  • gout
  • poor mobility
  • osteoarthritis
  • low back pain
Urology and Nephrology
  • erectile dysfunction
  • urinary incontinence
  • chronic renal failure
  • hypogonadism
Writer: Prof.  Farrukh Chishtie

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A marvel among birds   

I fail to understand how the owl entertains Urdu speakers as a symbol of stupidity. No other apart from the Persian language calls these finest creations in bird by bad connotations and allusions: most probably it came from barn owl’s assuming a stoic posture in daylight to appear as if it was lost in thought and did not know what to do next.  

In fact its role as man’s true friend has been studied by several scientists and found that over a thousand rats – the deadly enemies of agriculture – are eaten up by one pair in one square mile every year. Out of the eight species of these silent fliers of winged world, our country may have thousands in span of entire Pakistan, plus about a dozen other species of birds of prey, some of whom also prey on rats. They are doing a wonderful job of saving food grain, lentils and other seeds that we need for our day to day living. By a rough estimate all of them may be eating up about a lakh rats everyday, which is a great service in our survival chain.
These birds are very special because of several capabilities like being able to listen to the slightest stir over a foot deep in the ground and differentiating it from the rustling sound of the grass and bushes rasping their branches with the breeze. After locating the prey the owl will perch silently nearby and wait for the rat to emerge, pounce absolutely soundlessly on account of its soft furry features that allow the air to pass through without making the flight audible making it quite a unique survival mechanism. The middle ears have a large echoing compartment. The echo locates the source and directs a bird to fly straight to the quarry, even in total darkness. The very large iris, almost as wide as the front of cornea, can allow even a star’s dim light to spot a creeping mouse. It leads the bird to the right spot even without the rat being visible. Quite amazingly, it is also found that a rat in one-and-half feet deep snow can be heard by an owl.
This stupendous feat is achieved by a circle of fine feathers around the head that works as an antenna to focus the sound waves to the ears. The ability to turn its head in almost three hundred sixty degrees helps to locate the source of sound and food as well. That is why an owl can survive throughout the year in snow, blizzard, and summer in rains, in day or at night.
An owl has tremendous appetite and digesting power. It will gulp an entire rat whole and give one to the young ones as to swallow it as well. All owls throw away balls of hair, bones and indigestible parts of the prey to keep light after extracting the nutrients from the prey.
The female too is different, she will lay eggs at different intervals, incubate them as they are laid and does not lose viability, as happens in other birds case. One can find a two-month old owlet, a newly hatched chick and two eggs that have been half-incubated yet. In spite of this irregular egg-laying cycle, the mother seldom, if ever, loses chicks by either starvation, lack of proper incubation or difference in age that does make a difference in supply of food by the parents. The parents know who is hungry, who was fed last and who had his belly full. There is therefore, seldom a dead young owl in the nest.
Owls have few enemies: one of them is Goshawk, with a five feet wing span that chases owls and tears them apart as food. This bird too can hear the faintest squeak of the rat as owls can.
Nature has been very ingenious in designing birds, their flight patterns, shape and size of features, the critical balance between weight of muscles, bones and the height which a particular bird will fly. The migratory birds have an entirely different shape and structure of muscles. But the owls are far better made.
This class has, therefore, survived through millions of years, in spite of heavy odds against them.
Writer: Dr. A. A. Quraishy

Articles

10 Common Household Hazards which could be Extremely Dangerous to Children

All responsible parents are cautious when their kids are outdoors but they often overlook the basic safety rules at home. Here are some key safety tips for your young ones.    

We usually do not pay attention to several potential hazards which could cause a serious injury or death to a child at home. Falling objects, poisoning, burns and electric shock injuries are also common in adults but young children are the most vulnerable to these hazards. Here is a list of hidden risks in common household things with easy and practical safety solutions to keep your children safe at home all the times:

1. Bathroom

The first thing that comes to your mind when you think about personal hygiene is your bathroom. Nevertheless, it also is a part of your house with several hidden hazards.
Hazards: Slippery floor, bathtubs, scalding hot water and risk of infections are potential bathroom hazards.
Safe Strategy: Here is how you can minimize the risk of injury in a bathroom:
  • Keep your bathroom floor dry. Use mop and wiper to drain water after taking shower.
  • Always supervise your children until they are old enough to stay safe in a bathroom. Children under 6 should never be left alone in a bathtub. Several children have been drowned in their bathtubs during unsupervised showers.
  • Never fill a bathtub with just hot water or open hot faucet. Always run cold water tap first followed by the hot water to get the right bathing temperature. Teach your children the same safety rule.
  • Remember! Babies and toddlers have very sensitive skin which is more susceptible to burns. You may find 42°C shower comfortable but 35°C to 38 °C is a safe temperature range for bathing small children.
  • It is highly advisable to adjust your water heater thermostat to 50°C or ‘Warm’ setting to minimize the risk of burn injuries.
  • Frequently wash your bathroom, sink, toilet seat and towels. A damp towel hanging in the bathroom is a perfect breeding site for dangerous bacteria.
  • Train your children to wash their hands every time after using the toilet.

2. Tipping Furniture

It is a common household hazard which poses more risks to small children than adults. A few simple safety measures can effectively eliminate this risk.
Hazard: Children love to climb furniture like a dressing table, a closet or a TV table etc. Furniture with a high center of gravity is more likely to tip over when it is pulled away from the wall. An average adult may walk away with a minor injury but even a small dressing table tipped over children could result in serious injury or death since they are small and they cannot lift it off without help from someone else. 
Safe Strategy: Luckily, the safety solution to this hazard is very simple and practical. If you do not need to remove the furniture like it is a bedroom wardrobe or a TV table, then you should anchor it to the wall using screws. Just drill a few holes into the wall and fix the furniture by tightening the screws. For portable furniture, use removable straps to anchor it to the wall. These straps make the furniture ‘tip over proof’ and can easily be unbuckled it when you need to move it.

3. Medicines

Keeping a well-stocked medicine and first aid boxes at home is a very good idea to be emergency ready. Nonetheless, improper usage or storage of lifesaving medicines could result in a life threating medical emergency.
Hazards: Children cannot differentiate between food and medicines. A curious child may eat a colorful pill or capsule by mistaking it for a sweet candy which could prove lethal. Taking wrong medicines/dose due to illegible prescription is another common risk.
Safe Strategy: Keep all the medicines out of reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet. If you must keep medicine in the refrigerator, you can either choose to use a child-proof lock on it or put the medicine in a secured box first before storing it in the refrigerator. Always follow the instructions on prescription. Make sure to ask the pharmacist if the medicines match with the prescription. It is also safe to read the label on the drug to take the right dosage.

4. Household Cleaners

Dishwashing, toilet and laundry cleaners are extremely hazardous. They need to be carefully handled and stored in a safe and secure place.
Hazards: Domestic cleaning products can cause chemical burns to skin and severe eye irritation and respiratory inflammation. Accidental ingestion of any of these chemicals is a life-threatening medical emergency. They can cause severe and permanent damage to the human body.
Safe Strategy: Always follow these safety rules to protect your family from hazardous household chemicals:
  • Keep all chemicals in a locked cabinet out of reach of children.
  • Never store flammable liquids near stoves or ovens in the kitchen.
  • Do not use toilet cleaning chemicals when there is a child in the bathroom. These cleaners release toxic fumes which are extremely hazardous for small children.
  • Never use a soft drink or water bottle for dangerous chemicals. These bottles are not only unsuitable for chemicals but it also increases the risk of accidental ingestion.

5. Food

A human basic need can sometimes cause serious illness. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s first ever global report of food poisoning revealed that children under 5 accounts for almost one-third of total deaths.
Hazards: Bacterial contamination is the leading cause of food poisoning followed by chemical contamination. Food processing in unhygienic conditions and improper storage increase the risk of food spoilage. Bug killer sprays, cleaners and other toxic chemicals can also turn food into deadly poison. Eating with dirty hands is also responsible for stomach infection in adults and children.
Safe Strategy: You can stay healthy by following these simple food safety rules:
  • Always wash your hands with soap before eating or food preparation.
  • Educate your children about hand washing as early as possible.
  • Cooked food should ideally be consumed fresh.
  • If you must refrigerate it, here are a few things to remember:
  1. Make sure to consume your leftover within 4 days after refrigeration.
  2. Never refrigerate reheated leftover food
  • All perishable food items in the fridge could be spoiled if power outage exceeds 3 hours. No refrigerator can maintain a safe temperature for more than 4 hours without power.
  • Avoid packing a lunchbox with perishable food. Children leave school early and eat lunch 4 – 5 hours later. This increases the risk of food poisoning in school children because perishable food should be consumed within 2 – 3 hours after packing.
  • Never use any insecticide spray near food. Make sure to cover all edible things before using bug sprays.
  • Always keep food covered to prevent contamination.
  • Never store any detergents, cleaning chemicals and other toxic items near food.

6. Kitchen Counter top

 

Kitchen is perhaps the most dangerous room in the house. It should be declared ‘restricted area’ for small children to protect them from serious injuries.
Hazards: A kitchen is a home to several hazards – fire, boiling liquids, sharp knives and harmful chemicals to name a few.
Safe Strategy: Babies and younger toddlers should be banned from entering the kitchen. You can ask another family member or a friend to supervise your kid(s) while you are working in the kitchen so they do not follow you to a danger zone. You may allow older children into the kitchen but only if they are old enough to understand the risks. However, children below 14 should never be left unsupervised in a kitchen. Keep sharp kitchen tools secured in a child-proof drawer. Always turn cooking utensils handles away from the front of the stove so they do not get knocked off the stove. Do not enter a kitchen while holding your baby. It is safer to leave him/her in a baby coat outside the kitchen.

7. Plastic Bags

Polythene shopping bags are not only injurious to animals and the environment but they are also dangerous for young children.
Hazards: Plastic bag can kill a child by suffocating him/her.  Infant and toddlers can roll over and get entangled in a plastic grocery bag left in their room. They can pull a bag over their heads and suffocate after they get panicked and are unable to get it off.
Safe Strategy: Make sure to properly dispose of plastic bags after use. Never put any plastic bag or a sheet near an infant’s bed. Plastic garbage and dry cleaning bags should be kept in a child-proof cabinet when not in use. Never leave any sort of plastic bag in a child’s crib. You should not cover children’s mattresses or pillows in plastic bags.

8. Electric Appliances

Electricity is a very good servant but a dangerous master. It can make our lives easy but it can also kill us in a matter of seconds if we are not being careful.
Hazards: Even a low-voltage (100V – 240V) electric shock can result in cardiac arrest leading to death. Toddlers are unaware of hidden risks and they are more likely to be killed by a low voltage electric shock than adults. Extension cords, power sockets at floor level and other electric appliances like electric iron, portable heater and table fans are potential electrical hazards for kids at home.
Safe Strategy: Here are a few ways to child-proof your electrical appliances:
  • Do not leave your small children alone and educate them about the risks of electricity when they are old enough to learn.
  • You should either close the floor level wall socket if not required or replace it by a childproof socket.
  • Invest in a child-safe extension cord and keep them away from cribs and kids play area.
  • Never leave a hot electric iron on the floor to cool it off. It can seriously burn your child if s/he touches it for a second.
  • Do not allow your small children to recharge their battery operated toys.

09. Toys

Children love to play with toys, yet many of them contain hidden hazards and they are known to cause too many life-threatening injuries.
Hazards: An airsoft gun is the most dangerous toy. Air gunshots have known to cause serious ocular injuries resulting in partial or complete loss of vision. Chocking on toys is another common and potentially dangerous hazard.  It happens when a young child tries to swallow a small object and it gets stuck in the windpipe and s/he stops breathing.  Some toys contain small batteries cells which are even more hazardous because they can cause caustic burn in esophagus and stomach.
Safe Strategy: Here is how you can protect your kids from toys related risks:
  • Look for labels that give age recommendations. You should never buy your 3 years old child a toy which is designed for 5 years + age group.
  • Supervise and educate your older child not to share his/her toy with a younger sibling.
  • Children under 10 should never be allowed to use an airsoft gun. Also, educate them not to shoot human and animals, the guns should only be used for target shooting while wearing safety glasses.
  • Broken toys should immediately be disposed of as your child may get hurt by stepping on sharp edges of a metal or plastic part.
  • Pay attention to battery operated toys; do not allow your small children to replace/recharge their batteries. There is a risk of electric shock or battery explosion if they insert the battery in the wrong position.

10. Guns

There is nothing wrong to own a gun for self-defense if you have a valid arms permit. However, owning a gun requires you to be a responsible citizen.
Hazards: There are two major risks with guns which could easily kill your child at home:
  1. Accidental gun discharges injure/kill a bystander
  2. A child gets a loaded gun, mistaking it for toy and shoot him/herself or another person/animal
Safe Strategy: Gun-owning parents need to be very careful. A small mistake they make with guns could prove deadly. Here are a few safety rules to consider:
  • Always keep your arms and ammunition in a locked cabinet where children and unauthorized persons cannot access it.
  • A biometric safe is a perfect solution which can be unlocked in a few seconds making it possible for you to quickly retrieve it but nearly impossible for a child to get his/her hands on a loaded gun.
  • If you must carry a gun in a car, it should be concealed in a secured holster out of reach of children.
  • If there is a bullet stuck in the barrel, unload the gun, and have a qualified gunsmith fix it. Do not attempt to remove the bullet yourself. Several people have been shot while fixing their jammed guns.
  • Always unload the gun before cleaning. Make sure you do not have kids around while working on firearms.
Writer: Sultan Kiani
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