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Child safety

Accidental injuries are one of the most common cause of death in children over one year, and many of these accidents are preventable.

Children are often absorbed in their own immediate interests and can be oblivious to their surroundings. Children need constant supervision to make sure they are safe. Read below for advice on how to avoid some of the most common reasons for accidents in children.

A baby's skin is 15 times thinner than an adult's so it is very easy for them to get badly hurt. Young children also do not have the reflex to pull away from something that is burning them, it's something that we learn.

Hot drinks - can scald a baby even 15 minutes after they have been made. They are one of the most common causes of burns and scalds. Never hold a hot drink while holding your baby or pass a hot drink or dish over a child, and put hot drinks well out of reach away from the edge of tables and worktops.

Bath water - it takes just 5 seconds for a toddler to suffer a severe scald from too hot bath water. Never leave a child alone in the bath and always put in the cold water first before topping up with hot, mix it well and test the temperature before letting your child get in the bath. The temperature should be 37-38 degrees C.

Radiators and heaters - can get seriously hot. Fix fireguards around heaters and fires and move cots away from radiators so that babies cannot get their arms or legs stuck behind them.

Hair straighteners - can get as hot as an iron and still burn 15 minutes after they are switched off. Keep them out of reach, stored up high in a heatproof pouch.

Cooking - hobs, oven doors, kettles and saucepans can all cause major injury. Keep children out of the kitchen while you're cooking if possible, and use back rings on the hob with the handles turned back, and push the kettle to the back of the worktop.

Mobile phone chargers can cause horrific burns if a child puts the live end in their mouth. Keep them unplugged and out of the way when not in use.

Useful websites

Visit the Child Accident Prevention Trust for detailed information on child safety.

The Institute of Health Visiting has lots of useful information on looking after your child.

The NHS website has information on how to treat burns and scalds.

The SafeTea campaign is an online campaign to help parents to prevent hot drink burns in small children and improve burn first aid.

Button batteries can injure or even kill a child if they are swallowed. At least two children a year have died because of swallowing a lithium coin battery in this country.

If a lithium coin batter gets stuck in a child's food pipe, energy from the battery reacts with saliva to make the body create caustic soda. This can cause catastrophic internal bleeding, burn a hole in the windpipe and cause death within hours. Even batteries that seem to be 'flat' can still contain enough charge to badly hurt a child.

To keep your child safe:

  • Keep all spare batteries in a sealed container out of reach
  • Ensure battery compartments on toys etc are safely secured
  • Make sure that flat batteries are recycled safely and kept out of children't reach

If you suspect your child has swallowed a button battery:

  • Take them to A&E immediately or dial 999 for an ambulance
  • Take any packaging with you
  • Do not let them eat or drink
  • Do not make them sick

Act fast - there may not be any specific symptoms. However. if symptoms do develop they could include loss of appetite, tummy pain, gagging or drooling, being sick, being lethargic, or vomiting up fresh blood.

 

Each day around 40 under-5s are taken to hospital after choking on something or swallowing something dangerous. Follow these tips to help minimise the danger:

  • Grapes are the third most common cause of death in food-related accidents. The size and shape of them can completely plug a child's airway. Always chop grapes in half lengthways and ideally into quarters
  • Avoid giving peanuts to children under the age of 6
  • Do not prop a baby up to feed from a bottle - they will not be able to push it away if they choke
  • Keep small objects out of reach of babies and toddlers who may put them in their mouth
  • Always cut up food for toddlers to make it safer to eat - they can even choke on soft meat such as hot dogs
  • Stay with your toddler while they are eating
  • Try to encourage older children to stay still while they are eating as it is much easier to choke while running around.

 

Find out how to save a choking baby in this short St John's Ambulance video:

 

Suspected poisoning is one of the most common reasons for young children to be taken to A&E. Swallowing medicines like painkillers found in handbags or bedside drawers are the most common way for children to be poisoned.

  • Keep medicines and cleaning products up high and put safety catches on cupboard doors
  • Liquid laundry tablets are extremely dangerous - keep them locked away or stored up high
  • Keep blister packs of tablets out of reach - a 3-4 year old can open them in seconds
  • 'Child-resistant' caps are not child proof - keep them out of reach
  • Clear away any glasses with alcohol dregs in them as even small amounts of alcohol can be harmful to young children
  • Teach children not to eat anything picked from outside as a poisonous berry can look appetising
  • Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide alarm fitted - you can't see, smell or taste it but it can kill 

Around 130 babies die in the UK as a result of unsafe sleeping, it is important to follow all of our advice on safe sleeping to ensure your baby is safe.

Sadly, there are instances of babies and small children suffocating or being strangled by household items. Always follow the guildelines below to reduce this risk.

  • Keep nappy sacks away from babies and never store them within reach of their cot or pram - fatalities have occurred after a baby has got hold of a nappy sack and it has covered their mouth or nose, or choked after putting a nappy sack in their mouth
  • Keep all small toys such as marbles out of the reach of children under three 
  • Keep animals, especially cats, out of the bedroom so that they cannot lay on the baby
  • Never put your baby down to sleep in a headband, bib or anything that could move around and cover the baby's mouth and nose
  • Always quarter small food such as grapes and cherry tomatoes, and do not give food such as peanuts, to children under the age of six
  • Babies should always be placed on their back with their feet to the foot of their cot, with blankets pulled no further than their shoulders or ideally use a sleep sacks - see our safe sleeping advice for more information
  • Ensure blind cords are out of the reach of children: one or two children die each year in the UK after becoming tangled in a blind cord. Ideally install blinds that do not have a cord. If there is a looped cord, keep it short and our of reach
  • Do not hang drawstring bags in reach of children as they could get their head through the loop of the string
  • Do not hang toys or objects on or near the cot which could be grabbed and pose a hazard

 

Babies and children are especially vulnerable in hot weather. Follow our tips below to keep them safe.

Never cover a pram or buggy with blankets, muslins or anything that can stop the air circulating - this can lead to dangerous overheating and increase the risk of SIDS. Use a clip on sunshade or parasol.

Never leave an infant in a closed, parked vehicle.

Protect your baby's skin from sunlight with light coloured clothing and a hat. Use an SPF of 50 and look for the UVA star rating of 4 or 5.

Avoid the sun during the hottest times of day - between 11-3.

Be careful of car seat buckles as they can get very hot. Also be careful in parks as any metal slides and swings can get exceptionally hot.

Make sure your baby or child has sufficient fluids. If your baby is under six months and solely breastfeed, breastfeeding on demand should be sufficient. If they are bottle fed, give extra cooled boiled water. If they are over six months old, cold water from the tap.

Try and keep the room they are sleeping in cool, a temperature of 16-20 degrees is ideal. Keep windows open if it is safe to do so, dress them in light clothing to sleep, and use a fan but do not point it directly at the baby.

Feel their temperature by touching their chest or back.

Keep curtains and blinds closed throughout the day, keep lights and unnecessary electrical appliances turned off, and keep doors closed to stop heat from travelling through.

If you are on holiday, make sure if using a travel cot, it is not in direct sunlight or within reach of blind cords or other hazards.

See the NHS advice on sun and heat safety for more information.

BBC CBeeBies have produced a video and information tailored at children if it's a struggle to get them to wear a hat, drink water, or wear sunscreen.

Up to 60 children drown in the UK every year, and most of these deaths could be prevented.

Young children can drown in fewer than two inches of water in only 20 seconds. Babies and infants need constant supervision around water - whether this is in the bath, paddling or swimming pool, by ponds, rivers or lakes. Never leave babies and infants along around water, even for a moment.

Children will disappear under the surface of water, not cry out for help. It is important to supervise children under 8 at all times in and around water.

If you have a pond, securely cover it or fence it off.

The Lullaby Trust has created a video on keeping your child safe around water, watch it here:

 

It's extremely important to keep babies and toddlers warm in cold weather. Here are some top tips to help when the weather is cold.

Going outside

* Keep babies warm by layering. A snowsuit is lovely for those long winter walks, but if you are shopping or in and out of warm places, layers are easier to take on and off. Remember to take off hats and gloves when you are in a warm shop, café, train or bus.

* If you are out walking, remember to keep your baby warm. Most buggies and prams have cosy covers for winter use, just make sure they are warm and protective, rather than fashionable! Keep checking your baby’s temperature too, to make sure they aren’t overheating.

* If you are using a sling, your baby will have the added benefit of your body warmth. Again, keep checking to make sure they aren’t getting too warm.

* Toddlers love this time of year. If we are lucky to have snow or rain, wrap them up warm in an all in one or snow suit with wellies. Make sure they are waterproof to avoid getting their clothes wet and making your active toddler too cold. Make sure those layers are removed when they are back inside.

* In the car make sure babies and toddlers are not wearing thick coats or snowsuits and keep layers to a minimum. Too many layers or thick coats is dangerous because it can leave the harness too loose to be effective in a crash. You may want to put a lightweight blanket on your baby over the top of their car seat until the car warms up. 

Safe sleeping

While you want to keep your baby warm at night if the temperatures are low outside, its important they don’t get too warm. The chance of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) is higher in babies who overheat. It isn’t necessary to keep the heating on at night, just add an extra layer, remembering to check your baby’s temperature often by placing a hand on their tummy or the back of their neck.

If you do decide to keep the heating on, make sure the temperature is between 16-20°C.

Remember no hats, sleeping bags, pillows or duvets on babies as these can pose a suffocation hazard.

For more safe sleeping information, visit our safe sleeping pages and the Lullaby Trust website

One child under five is admitted to hospital every day after falling from an open window, or balcony. Pre-school children are particularly at risk as not only do they not sense the danger but they are very curious and sometimes parents or carers may not even be aware of what they are capable of.

  • Make sure that children cannot reach windows, and that they are kept locked
  • If opening a window, make sure children are supervised
  • Don't keep furniture near windows that could be climbed upon