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Accidents to children in the home

NHS Direct Online Health Encyclopaedia


Introduction Most injuries in children up to the age of five happen in the home. They can happen very quickly and are more likely to happen when adults are under stress or in a rush, or when there is a change to the usual routine. You know your own home and you are in the best position to look out for possible dangers.

Definition The kinds of accidents children have are linked to their level of development, so there are particular things to watch out for depending on the age of your child. Babies 0-1 years old: At this stage babies are able to wriggle, grasp, suck and roll over. There are a number of possible accidents that are common in this age group. Suffocating and choking in babies: Babies can swallow, inhale (breathe in) or choke on things like small toys, peanuts and marbles. Choose toys designed for the age of your baby and make sure that small objects such as marbles, peanuts and small toys are kept out of reach. Encourage older children to keep their toys away from the baby.

Lay your baby on its back in a cot to sleep - don't put babies to sleep alone in an adult bed or on the sofa.

Falls: Falls can happen if you leave your baby on a raised surface. When you are changing nappies, make sure your baby cant roll off a bed or sofa. You can use a baby mat on the floor.

Burns and scalds: Burns and scalds are possible if your baby is near hot objects. Avoid putting your baby near things like ovens, light bulbs, radiators, hairdryers, irons and fires. Place hot drinks well out of your baby's reach. Fit short power leads on kettles and heaters. Remember hot water can scald for up to 30 minutes after it has boiled. When bathing your baby, check that the water isnt too hot. A good test is to put your elbow in first. If the water feels hot, it could possibly burn your baby. When filling the bath, run the cold water first and then add hot water. This reduces the risk of your baby slipping into scalding water.

Poisoning: Babies have a natural instinct to suck anything that comes into contact with their mouths. Many ordinary household cleaners can be poisonous, so its important to keep them out of reach. Take care when washing your babys bottle so it doesnt come into contact with poisonous substances. Older brothers or sisters should be supervised when around a baby to stop them feeding tablets or other poisonous substances to the baby. Remember a babys stomach is much more sensitive than an adult's.

Children 1-4 years old: Toddlers can move very quickly, so accidents often happen in seconds. As children get older they will explore more, which means they are more likely to have knocks and bruises. Burns and scalds: Make sure that you use an appropriate fireguard for all fires. Fit a smoke alarm on each floor of your home and make sure you check that it is working properly on a weekly basis.

Its importantto have a fire escape plan worked out and to tell your children what to do in case of a fire. Keep matches and lighters out of childrens reach. Place hot drinks out of children's reach. Fit short power leads on kettles and heaters. Use the back rings on the cooker, and turn pan handles away from the edge. Children are curious and will reach for the handle of a pan on the stove its best to keep young children out of the kitchen altogether if possible. As with babies, its important to test the temperature of bath water before putting you child in, to avoid burning or scalding them. As they get older, teach them to test the water first, too.

Poisoning: By the age of 18 months or earlier children can open containers, and by three years they may also be able to open child-resistant tops within minutes. Keep household chemicals, medicines, alcohol and even cosmetics out of childrens reach, preferably in a locked cupboard or lockable suitcase or cosmetics case. Use containers that have child-resistant tops.

Recommendations You can save yourself a lot of stress by child-proofing your home before it becomes a danger to growing children. This allows them to explore with more freedom without you having to say no all the time: Check locks on windows. Windows, especially in childrens bedrooms, should have child locks on to stop them opening any wider than 10cm/4 inches. Put latches on low cupboards and put a guard in front of the fire. Also make sure electrical sockets are covered and leads are tucked out of the way. Fit child safety gates at the top and bottom of the stairs. Move furniture such as beds, sofas and chairs away from windows to prevent children climbing up and falling out. Dont encourage your children to wave from the windows, as they might try to climb up when youre out of the room. Small children can squeeze their bodies through a gap as small as 10cm / 4in wide (smaller than the length of a teaspoon) but they may get their heads trapped. Check the width between railings, banisters and balconies and board them up if necessary. Move cleaning products and other chemical based solutions out of low (child-height) cupboards or put safety locks on the cupboards. Dont leave medicines or pills lying around where children and toddlers can get at them. If you can, make sure everything breakable or dangerous is out of toddler reach. You can buy corner guards to cover the sharp edges of furniture. Keep knives, razors, sewing kits and DIY tools locked away. Make sure your garden is safe. Put a fence around a pond or pool, lock away garden tools, make sure there arent any gaps in the fence your child could squeeze through, and teach them the importance of not putting berries and poisonous plants in their mouth.

Glossary Stomach The sac-like organ of the digestive system. It helps digest food by churning it and mixing it with acids to break it down into smaller pieces.

© Queen's Printer and Controller of HMSO, 2005

Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the controller of HMSO and the Queens Printer for Scotland.



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