As part of your homestudy your social worker will have completed a health and safety check but now that your little one is home you may to want to rethink the choices you have made about stair gates etc. Below is a list of the most common childhood accidents and how to prevent them from the NHS website which we thought you’d find helpful.
Remember supervision and knowing your child are the important preventive tools – especially in the early days you’ll need to closely supervise your child as you learn their particular strengths and behaviours.
Be aware of your child’s development – your child may not be exactly where they should be with regards to their developmental milestones so when looking at risks think about what they can do, what types of behaviour you see, your child might be over independent for their age or less able. Any safety measures you take will be specific to your child and their needs.
There are several ways that you can help to prevent injuries to children in the home, including supervising your child, being aware of the risks, creating a safe environment and using important safety equipment. Below is a very thorough list that we have copied from the NHS website, it’s aimed at safety for little ones, but it’s a helpful overview of where household risks can lie. And as you are well aware your little ones are often developmentally in a different place to their chronological peers.
The types of childhood injuries that occur in the home are often linked to a child’s age and level of development, and it can be difficult for parents to keep up with their child’s capabilities.
At an early age, babies are able to wriggle, grasp and roll over. As they grow (reaching the ages of six months to a year old) they may also be able to stand, sit, crawl and put things in their mouth.
As children get older they can walk and move about, reach things that are higher up, climb and find hidden objects. With their new-found sense of freedom and movement, toddlers can move quickly and accidents can happen in a matter of seconds.
Below are some of the most common types of injuries that happen to babies and young children, and advice about how you can prevent them.
We have left in the comments about cigarettes but are confident that these comments won’t apply to you but they may in the future apply to family and friends, although hopefully not!
Falls are by far the most common type of injury in the home. They account for 44% of all children’s injuries.
For babies, the biggest danger is rolling off the edge of something such as a table, bed or sofa. Toddlers quickly learn how to climb and explore and it is very easy for a child to fall off a piece of furniture, down the stairs or out of a window or balcony.
Young children are likely to fall over and get knocks and bruises as they learn to walk, but serious injuries can be avoided. The steps below can help to prevent falls in the home.
- Make sure your baby cannot roll off the changing surface.
- Do not put a bouncing cradle, or similar, on a table or worktop – they can easily bounce off the edge.
- Fit restrictors to upstairs windows so they cannot be opened more than 10cm.
- Keep chairs and other climbing objects away from windows and balconies.
- Fit safety gates approved by British Standards (BS EN 1930:2000) at the top and bottom of stairs.
- Do not leave anything on the stairs that might cause someone to fall over and make sure there is enough light.
- Check that there is no room for a child to crawl through any banisters at the top of the stairs. Board them up if there is a risk of your child falling through them or getting stuck.
- If you have a balcony, keep the door locked so your child cannot go on to it alone – if it has railings that your child could climb through, board them up or fit wire netting as a guard.
- Secure any furniture and kitchen appliances to the wall if there is a risk that they could be pulled over.
Suffocating and Choking
Babies and young children can easily swallow, inhale or choke on small items such as marbles, buttons, peanuts and small toys. The steps below can help to prevent this happening.
- Keep small objects out of the reach of small children.
- Choose toys that are designed for the age of your baby or child – encourage older children to keep their toys away from your baby.
- Beware of clothing with cords, dummies on necklace cords and bag straps – they can easily get caught and pull tightly on the neck.
- Lay your baby on their back in a cot to sleep – do not put babies to sleep in an adult bed or on the sofa and do not use pillows as they can suffocate.
- Keep plastic bags away from young children – they can pull these over their heads and suffocate.
- Nappy sacks, used to dispose of soiled nappies, can also pose a risk – keep them out of the reach of babies and young children.
- Curtain and blind pull cords should be kept short and out of reach of children.
- Keep animals, especially cats, out of your bedrooms – if they jump into cots or beds and fall asleep in the wrong place they could suffocate your child. Attach a net over prams if necessary.
Domestic fires are one of the greatest risks to children. Children playing with matches and lighters frequently start house fires. The youngest children often hide from the danger and may not be found until it is too late.
The following points are important safety precautions to ensure you and your child do not breathe in poisonous smoke and prevent a fire starting while you sleep.
- Fit smoke alarms on every level of your home.
- Test the batteries every week and change the batteries every year. Even better, get alarms that have 10-year batteries or are wired into the mains or plug into light sockets.
- At night, switch off electrical items wherever possible before going to bed and close all doors to contain a potential fire.
- Have an escape plan worked out for your family and tell your child what to do in case of a fire. Practise the plan regularly.
- Always use a fireguard on an open fireplace and make sure it is attached to the wall. Do not lean or hang anything from it.
- Keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach.
- Extinguish and dispose of cigarettes carefully – especially at night.
Burns and Scalds
Hot drinks cause most of the burns and scalds to children under the age of five. A child’s skin is much more sensitive than an adult’s and hot water can scald for up to 15 minutes after it has boiled. Hot bath water is the biggest cause of severe and fatal scalding injuries in young children.
Children can also get burns from open fires, cookers, irons, hair straighteners and tongs, cigarettes, matches, lighters and other hot surfaces. The following points can help prevent these accidents from occurring.
- Switch off heated appliances immediately after use and place them out of reach – this can include irons, hair straighteners and curling tongs. Keep the cord safely out of reach as well.
- Always place hot drinks out of children’s reach. Keep them away from the edges of tables and surfaces, and don’t use tablecloths that children can pull at.
- Do not drink anything hot with a child on your lap or in your arms.
- Use a cordless kettle or one with a coiled lead that can be kept short.
- Use the back rings on the cooker whenever possible and turn saucepan handles away from the edge.
- If possible, keep young children out of the kitchen.(just as good is close supervision in the kitchen)
- Before bathing your baby or child, check that the water is not too hot – a good test is to put your elbow in first. When filling the bath, run the cold water first before adding hot water. As your child gets older, teach them to test the water first, too.
Most poisoning injuries involve medicines, household products and cosmetics. Over 28,000 children in the UK receive treatment for poisoning, or suspected poisoning, every year.
- Keep anything that may be poisonous out of reach – this includes all medicines and pills, household cleaners and garden products, preferably in a locked cupboard.
- Use containers that have child-resistant tops – be aware that by the age of three, many children are able to open child-resistant tops, even if it takes them a little longer (some of our children may be able to open child proof tops at an earlier age – it totally depends on their story).
- Keep all dangerous chemicals in their original containers – for example, do not store weedkiller in an old drinks bottle as a young child may mistake it for something safe to drink.
- Dispose of unwanted medicines and chemicals carefully.
- Discourage your children from eating any plants or fungi when outside – some can be extremely poisonous and even fatal. Avoid buying plants with poisonous leaves or berries. (some of our children will be mouthing things at a much later chronological stage as they work through missed developmental stages)
Glass can cause serious cuts. Many children end up in hospital every year because of injuries due to glass around the home. Many are also injured when glasses and bottles break.
- Use safety glass at a low level, such as in doors and windows. Safety glass is glass that is toughened and laminated and passes specially designed impact tests. Normal glass shatters more easily. The British Standard for safety glass is BS 6206. Look for the BS marks on your windows or ask the glazier who is fitting your windows.
- Make existing glass safe by applying a shatter-resistant film.
- When buying furniture that includes glass, make sure it is safety approved. The British Standards for glass in furniture are BS 7376 and BS 7449.
- Always dispose of broken glass quickly and safely – wrap it in newspaper before throwing it in the bin.
- If you own a greenhouse or cold frame (a structure to protect plants from the winter cold), make sure it has safety glazing or it is fenced off from children.
- Do not let a toddler walk around holding anything made of glass or anything sharp – such as scissors and sharp pencils.
Children can drown in just a few centimetres of water and should be supervised at all times when near any water.
- Never leave babies or children in the bath unsupervised – not even for a minute. This includes in a bath seat.
- Do not leave uncovered containers of liquid around the house.
- Store away paddling pools when not being used.
Almost all incidents where a child has drowned in the back garden or garden pond occurred after a breakdown in supervision.
- Preferably, fill in garden ponds while children are small. If this is not possible then cover ponds with a rigid grille or fence them off securely.
- Be careful when your children visit other people’s gardens.
- If you choose to maintain a garden pond please be aware that constant supervision is needed when children are in the garden.
The Child Accident Prevention Trust are committed to reducing the number of children and young people killed, disabled or seriously injured in accidents.