Keeping your child safe at home

Each year 40,000 under-fives are admitted to hospital following accidents, and lots of these accidents are preventable.

Watch video on tips for making your home childproof and avoiding preventable accidents.   Click here to view video 

FALLS

Before your child starts crawling:

  • Never leave your baby unattended on a raised surface, even for a moment.
  • Nappy changing is best done on the floor.
  • Always place baby car seats and bouncing chairs on the floor.
  • Strap your baby into their high chair every time.
  • Keep a hand free to hold on when carrying your baby up or down the stairs.
  • Keep stairs free of clutter and discourage older children from playing on the stairs.
  • Before your baby starts to crawl, fit safety gates to stop them climbing stairs or falling down them. Close the gates properly after you go through them.

When your child starts crawling:

  • If the gaps between banisters or balcony railings are more than 6.5cm (2.5 inches) wide, cover them with boards or safety netting.
  • Be aware that babies might climb up on furniture. Keep low furniture away from windows. 
  • Once a baby can sit up, remove large toys from the cot to prevent them climbing out

When your child starts to walk, they are likely to be unsteady on their feet:

  • Carry on using safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs until your infant is at least two years old.
  • Start to teach your child how to climb stairs, but never let them go up and down on their own (even four-year-olds may need some help). 
  • Don’t let children under six sleep in the top bunk of a bunk bed, as they can easily fall out. 
  • Keep low furniture away from windows and ensure that windows are fitted with locks or safety catches so that they do not open more than 10cm (4”).
  • Special devices can stop doors from closing properly, preventing your child’s fingers getting trapped.
  • If furniture has sharp corners, use corner protectors to prevent your child from hurting their head.
  • Do not let young children go out onto balconies alone, keep the door locked when not in use.
  • Supervise young children on play equipment and make sure that it is appropriate for their developmental stage.

SUFFOCATION / STRANGULATION

  • Do not use duvets or pillows for babies under 1 year old.
  • Always put babies down to sleep on their back, in the feet to foot position.
  • If using a bag-style sling always remember the TICKS mneumonic:
    • Tight
    • In view at all times,
    • Close enough to kiss
    • Keep chin off chest
    • Supported back
  • Do not sleep with your baby if your health or judgement is impaired.
  • When possible, avoid leaving babies to sleep on sofas or adult beds.
  • Never leave a baby unattended on a cushion or bean bag.
  • Store nappy sacks away from babies reach at all times and keep all plastic bags out of sight and reach.
  • Keep pets, particularly cats away from small babies.
  • Remove ribbons and ties from all homemade clothing.
  • Move cots and beds away from window blind cords and tie up or secure looped blind cords and chains away out of reach of the baby / child.
  • Do not hang bags with cords or drawstrings on the ends of cots or beds.
  • Ensure rotary washing lines are covered when not in use and discourage children from playing with washing lines /rope/ cord (including dressing gown cords).

 

For more information, click here 

DROWNING

Babies can drown in as little as 5cm (two inches) of water. Drowning is one of the commonest causes of child death – it’s often silent, so you won’t necessarily hear any noise or struggle.

  • Baths are the commonest place for babies and young children to drown. Stay with your baby or toddler the whole time they're in the bath. Never leave them for a moment, even if there’s an older brother or sister in the bath with them.
  • If you use a bath seat, remember that it’s not a safety device. You still need to stay with your baby all the time.
  • Empty the bath as soon as you’ve taken your child out. 
  • If you have a garden pond, fence it off, fill it in or securely cover it. 
  • Put covers on any large water butts or garden bins.
  • Watch toddlers when they're in a paddling pool or playing near water. Empty the paddling pool straight after use. 
  • Make sure your garden is secure so that your child can’t get into neighbouring gardens, where there may be ponds or other drowning hazards.
  • As soon as they are old enough, teach them about water safety and to swim.

CHOKING

Food is the most common thing for babies and toddlers to choke on. 

  • Always stay with your baby when bottle feeding, do not prop the bottle up to feed the baby
  • Once your baby has started on solid food, always cut it up into small pieces. Babies can choke on something as small as a grape (these should be cut lengthways). Cut food into ‘batons’ not ‘balls’ to prevent choking
  • Don’t give young children hard foods, such as boiled sweets or whole nuts.  
  • Encourage toddlers and young children to sit still while they eat and stay with them

Keep small objects, such as buttons, coins and small toy parts, out of your baby's reach.

  • Be especially careful with small circular lithium batteries (button batteries) – as well as being a choking hazard, they can cause severe internal burns if swallowed.
  • Read the age-warning symbols on all toys to make sure they are suitable and look for the Lion mark which will ensure that the toy has been made to the highest standards of safety and quality.

What to do if your child is choking

  • If you can see the object, try to remove it. Don’t poke blindly or repeatedly with your fingers. You could make things worse by pushing the object further in and making it harder to remove. 
  • If your child is coughing loudly, there’s no need to do anything. Encourage them to carry on coughing and don’t leave them.
  • If your child’s coughing is not effective (if they are silent or they can’t breathe in properly), shout for help immediately.
  • If your child is still conscious, but they’re either not coughing or their coughing is not effective, use back blows 

Watch Video on helping a choking baby.

POISONING

  • Medicines are the cause of over three-quarters of hospital admissions for poisoning in under-fives. Common painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen are the main culprits. Keep all medicines locked away or high up out of reach and sight.
  • Take extra care when visiting relatives houses as they may have medicines and other dangerous products within reach.
  • Keep cleaning products high up out of reach, including those for the toilet. If this isn’t possible, fit safety catches to low cupboard doors. Choose cleaning products that contain a bittering agent. This makes them taste nasty, so children are less likely to swallow them. Do not store cleaning liquids in unmarked containers or bottles, keep them in the container they came in to avoid confusion.
  • Keep garden chemicals and other outside chemicals in a locked shed / cupboard.
  • Teach children not to eat anything they have picked outside without checking with an adult first.
  • To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, get appliances serviced regularly and fit a carbon monoxide alarm where there are flame burning appliances or open fires.

 

If you think your child has swallowed pills or medicines:

  • Unless you’re absolutely sure what they are, spend a minute or two looking for the missing pills.
  • If you still think your child has swallowed something, take them straight away to your GP or A&E, whichever is quickest.
  • Take the full set of tablets with you, so that the doctors can check the labelling and calculate how much your child may have taken.
  • Don’t give your child salt and water, or do anything else to make them sick.

BURNS

  • Babies and toddlers will grab at brightly coloured objects, such as mugs. If you’re having a hot drink, put it down before you hold your baby. Keep hot drinks well away from all young children. A hot drink can still scald 15 minutes after it was made.
  • Ensure that bottles of formula feed are mixed well to avoid hot spots and check that the temperature of the milk is lukewarm before feeding.
  • Use a kettle with a short or curly flex to stop it hanging over the edge of the work surface, where it could be grabbed. 
  • When cooking, use the rings at the back of the cooker and turn saucepan handles towards the back, so they can’t be grabbed by little fingers. Consider using a safety gate to restrict access to the kitchen.
  • When you’ve finished using your iron or hair straighteners, put them out of reach while they cool down. Make sure your child can’t grab the flex while you’re using them.
  • When you run a bath for your baby, put the cold water in first, then add hot water to get to the right temperature. Use a bath thermometer to check.
  • If you can, fit a thermostatic mixing valve (TMV) to regulate water temperature.
  • Use an appropriate sunscreen and keep your baby/ child in the shade where possible.
  • Fit smoke alarms on every level of your home. Test them every week and change the batteries every year.
  • If you have an open fireplace, always use a fireguard that encloses the whole fireplace and make sure it's attached to the wall. Don't place anything on it or hang things from it.

 

If your child has a burn:-

  • Immediately put the burn or scald under cold running water.
  • Use something clean and non-fluffy, like a cotton pillowcase, linen tea towel or cling film, to cover the burn or scald. This will reduce the risk of infection. If your child’s clothes are stuck to the skin, don’t try to take them off.
  • Don’t put butter, toothpaste, oil or ointment on a burn or scald, as it will have to be cleaned off before the burn or scald can be treated.

You should take your child to the nearest A&E department if they have:-

  • large or deep burns – bigger than your child’s hand
  • burns of any size that cause white or charred skin  
  • all chemical and electrical burns
  • burns on the face, hands, arms, feet, legs or genitals that cause blisters (Blisters will burst naturally. The raw area underneath them needs a protective dressing. Ask your pharmacist or practice nurse for advice

 

Watch video on what to do if your child has a burn/scald.