Here are some great tips for keeping your babies, crawlers and toddlers, safe from the six most common causes of accidents inside and outside your home.
Burns and Scalds
- A baby’s skin is up to 15 times thinner than adults – meaning they burn easier, feel the heat quicker (from sun, hot water, or appliances)
- This age group burns or scalds at lower temperatures than adults and will cover much more of their small bodies
- Hot drinks cause the most scalds in this age group – a hot drink can still scald them 15 minutes later
- Hair straighteners are a growing concern as the number of burns are increasing. Keep them out of reach, even when cooling down
Fire guards: Ensure these are in place and fixed to the wall for all types of fire, be that wood-burning, gas, electric or halogen.
Matches, cigarette lighters and candles: Children may find these fascinating, but keep them out of reach and sight. Many lighters are child-resistant, but wily toddlers can often operate them anyway.
Cookers: Ask your little one to move out of the way when opening low-level oven and grills.
Hobs and hotplates: These will stay hot long after you’ve turned them off. Remind your child not to touch them every time, as they’re likely to forget or be curious even if you’ve told them previously.
Saucepans: Turn handles away from you, towards the back of your worktop and use the back rings whenever possible. Hot splashes can be a risk as well.
Hot drinks: Ensure hot drinks are placed well out of reach. Kettle cords should be tucked away to stop tempted hands from pulling on them. Look out for kettles with a curly flex power cord.
Microwaves: Babies bottles can heat up unevenly and can continue to heat once taken out of the microwave. This can leave hot spots of milk that can scald a baby’s mouth. Shake the bottle well after warming and test of the back of your hand. Ideally, use a warmer or a jug of hot water instead.
Irons: With temperatures of around 220°C they can cause severe burns. Always store away from sight after use, out of reach, with cords tucked away. Irons can retain their heat for up to 15 minutes after switching off.
Washing machine tablets: Liquid tabs are a hazard if ingested. As well as posing a poisoning risk, they are also caustic and can cause internal chemical burns. Keep them locked out of reach.
Hair straighteners, curling tongs, and hairdryers: Hair straighteners can still burn 30 minutes after being switched off. Leave them to cool out of reach. We’d advise using a heatproof cover or silicone pouch.
Cold before hot: You can make sure bath time is a safe time by running the cold tap first, then add the hot slowly until it is at the correct temperature for your child.
The elbow test: This is the quickest way to check the temperature is right for your child. Dipping your elbow into the water will provide a good indicator of how it will feel for your baby or toddler. It shouldn’t feel hot or cold.
Thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs): These devices centrally control the temperature of the hot tap, so that you can have a nice hot bath, and can prevent children being scalded from very hot water. Some newer houses and flats have TMVs already installed on the taps. If you don’t have them, you can get them installed by a professional.
Many scalds happen when a child gets into the bath before it’s ready, they turn on the hot tap when they’re in the bath, or lean over to pick up a floating toy and fall in the bath. Keep a watchful eye on your little one.
Barbecues: The coals stay hot for a long time, even when all the food has gone. Disposable barbecues can be tipped into a bucket of cold water to help them cool quicker.
Bonfires: Keep young children a safe distance from the fire and supervise them carefully.
Fireworks: Children under five shouldn’t hold sparklers and don’t really understand why they might be dangerous. Try placing the sparkler in a carrot, so they have something large and safe to hold, and so they’re not confused about which end to pick up.
Skin does not have to be peeling or blistering to be burned. If the skin is pink or red it is sunburnt.
Spend time in the shade when the sun is at its strongest, between 11am and 3pm. Cover up with a t-shirt, hat and sun glasses. A long-sleeved t-shirt helps protect delicate skin and a hat with a brim shades the face and back of neck.
Use a sunscreen on the parts you can’t cover. Put lots of cream on and reapply often, especially if your child has been in the water. Remember that sun cream does not give 100% protection and that clothing and shade help too. Look out for creams with at least SPF 15 and 4 stars
For more information check out the link to Sunsmart at Cancer Research UK here.
- Drowning is one of the main causes of accidental death in babies and young children.
- Babies and toddlers drown silently and can do so in just a depth of 3cms of water. Even rainwater collecting in a bucket can be a potential drowning hazard for a child.
- More babies and young children drown at home, in the bath, in garden ponds and paddling pools than anywhere else.
- Adult Supervision is the key to ensuring your child is safe when around water.
Little ones often love playing with water and it’s perfectly safe for them to do this – but only with your supervision at all times.
Allowing them to play in water will assist with their development and learning about the world they live in.
Bath time: If your child is in the bath, always remain by their side. Don’t be tempted to sit them in a bath seat or something else submerged under the water – your child can easily slip or fall into the water and would not be able to lift itself up.
Bath seats can be a great help, but they are not a safety aid and babies can wriggle out of them.
Once you have finished with the bathwater, pull the plug straightaway.
- Most falls happen when children take their parents by surprise.
- Serious head injuries and fractures can lead to a permanent disability of a young child.
- Small changes around the home can help prevent injuries.
Safety Tips for Babies
Babies develop quickly and within the first few months, they can roll, wriggle and kick. You can stop them from falling from a height by making sure that they are in a safe place like a cot or on the floor. Try to avoid leaving a baby on a bed or a sofa.
When carrying a baby around the home, and especially on stairs, hold onto the rail and ensure there aren’t any trip hazards.
The floor is the safest place to change your baby. If they’re sitting in a bouncing cradle or baby car seat they can still wriggle and move in the seat, so keep these on the floor too.
Baby walkers aren’t recommended by health professionals as they increase the risk of injury to babies. There’s also no evidence that they help a baby to walk.
Safety Tips for Crawlers
When babies begin to sit unaided, and then start to crawl, they can suddenly move quite quickly getting to places unexpectedly.
Safety gates are a useful addition to the home as they can prevent falls and are particularly useful near stairs.
When your baby starts crawling, areas you may not have previously made safe can become a risk. Crawlers could start pulling themselves up onto sofas and will be a bit wobbly.
Consider putting protectors or soft corners on to coffee tables and low units, which can help your child avoid sharp corners if they do fall.
Safety Tips for Toddlers
Safety gates (see above) can be used until toddlers are 24 months old to stop them climbing stairs or falling down them.
Consider boarding gaps between bannisters to stop children climbing through them. Why not show your child how to climb up and down the stairs safely.
A number of young children are seriously injured or die, as a result of falls from a balcony. They should be kept away from them unless supervised by an adult.
There should be a barrier at least 110cms (43’’) high around the edge of the balcony. Furniture of any kind or large pot plants can be a hazard if a child uses them to climb up.
Also, check the width of the railings on your balcony, if there are gaps of more than 6.5cm a young child could squeeze through and it is recommended they are boarded up.
Toddlers may be tempted to climb onto furniture, near windows, to sit on the sill. Window restrictors stop windows from opening more than 6.5cm.
In bedrooms especially, keep cots and beds away from windows. Beds – Falls from bunk beds are common in young children and result in sprains and fractures. Read more on bunk beds here.
- Paracetamol poisoning is the most common way for children to be poisoned.
- The popular strawberry-flavoured liquid paracetamol that is widely available, is liked by most little ones. A young child may try and drink from the bottle if it’s left unattended.
- Everyday tablets that you might keep in your handbag or bedside cabinet, may appeal to children as they can look like sweets.
- Child-resistant tops and tablets in strip and blister packs help to slow children down but they are not childproof.
- Liquid detergent capsules, dishwasher tabs and concentrated liquids are caustic and can cause internal chemical burns if swallowed. The capsules and tabs can come in boxes that aren’t child-resistant. All these items should be stored out of the reach of children and, preferably, locked away.
- Button batteries (lithium) have caused severe injury to several young children when swallowed. When a battery becomes stuck in a child’s throat, it releases caustic soda (a chemical used to unblock drains) which will burn through a child’s organs and blood vessels.
- E-cigarettes and liquids are a poison risk to young children. The attractive bottles of liquid nicotine can be mistaken for juice and are easy to open.
- Ensure you have household appliances regularly checked for carbon monoxide levels.
Babies and crawlers
From around six months, babies and crawlers start to put everything in their mouths – which means they are at risk of swallowing something harmful. Keep poisonous items out of reach and locked away.
Fitting child safety catches on low cupboard doors and drawers helps to prevent young children getting to cleaning products.
If you keep pills in your bag, it’s best not to leave it on the floor, as a crawling child have easy access.
Toddlers are at more risk of poisoning than any other age group.
The information for babies and crawlers still applies to toddlers. Experts recommend keeping harmful products in a room where people are often around, like a kitchen. They also suggest not storing such items in bathrooms.
Lead by example and don’t climb on chairs or worktops to explore cupboards, as toddlers are likely to imitate your behaviour. The same goes for taking medicine in view of young children, who may like to copy you.
Try to avoid pretending your toddler’s medicine is a sweet, as this can confuse them.
Scan the homes of family and friends when you first enter to check they haven’t left any dangerous items lying around.
Even small amounts of alcohol can be harmful to small children, so clear up any glasses with alcohol dregs in them.
Remember to be careful with aromatherapy oils, perfumes and cigarettes too as they can all be harmful to small children.
In the garden, you may have a shed with products like anti-freeze or weed killers. Its best to keep the shed locked. Discourage toddlers from eating any plants in the garden, as they may be poisonous.
Strikes, Crushes and Jams
- Strikes can be defined as any object hitting your child.
- Think about objects that could fall onto your child, from flat-screen TVs to bookcases. Use additional fixing to item furniture to walls wherever possible.
- Injuries, depending on the amount of force or pressure the child suffers, can vary from bruising to broken bones.
- Holding, cuddling, or even swaddling, a baby too tightly can cause crush-based injuries or pose a threat to their ability to breathe.
- Jams occur most often when fingers or limbs are trapped between a moving object, from doors to bike chains or gaps in skirting boards.
Babies and crawlers
As tempting as it may be to tightly comfort a baby, remember their little bodies are delicate and not fully formed.
Crawlers move around your home and possibly into areas that you may not realise they are in. Always think before moving a heavy object to check your child is not in the way.
Teaching your toddler is key at this stage. Help they learn to keep a safe distance from heavy objects and warn them that it could be dangerous to climb on items like cabinets.
Road safety is an important lesson to teach your toddler. Warn them not to sneak behind or in front of cars, even in a driveway or garage.
When visiting friends or a new property, quickly scan for dangers, such as unfixed or wobbling furniture.
Threat to Breathing
- Babies and toddlers learn to chew, swallow and breathe, with practice and time. Be vigilant and keep a close eye while they are trying new foods.
- When a child is choking it can be silent. Ensuring food is cut into small pieces, that will not lodge in their airways, will lead to a reduction in the choking risk.
- Smaller fruits like grapes should not be given to a child whole and should be diced into smaller pieces.
- Asphyxia (choking, suffocation and strangulation) is the third most common cause of child accidental deaths in the UK. Most of these incidents involve under-fives.
- Older children should be encouraged to sit down when eating food, as this reduces the risk of choking.
- Suffocation mostly occurs in a cot or bed – occasionally on the sofa. Babies are unable to move out of a position where they can’t breathe or when they become tangled in bedding.
- Keep nappy sacks well away from changing areas and cots.
- Strangulation can occur from cords on clothing, chains on jewellery, ribbons on dummies and amber beads.
- Drawstrings on bags and cords from window blinds, and chains all pose a threat to your young child who may become entangled if the cord is left hanging, where a toddler can reach.
- Most modern blinds now come with safety features to reduce this risk. The shop you purchase it from should provide you with the hooks or safety tools that aim to keep the cords out of your child’s reach.
Babies are unable to move away from danger and rely on an adult to keep them safe. They have not developed the physical or cognitive skills to move away from danger. Suffocation is the biggest threat to a baby when it’s sleeping or from nappy sacks.
A babies’ throat is so narrow that they can easily choke when drinking or when eating small pieces of food. It is also extremely dangerous to prop a baby up with their bottle. If the child is choking it would be unable to push the bottle away. It’s best practice to always remain with your baby when feeding it.
Small objects and toys are an obvious danger to your babies and crawlers. Things left around the home like buttons, coins, small parts like screws all pose a risk to your little one’s life. Button batteries are a major risk. Not only could your child choke, but windpipes and stomachs can be burned due to the chemicals in the batteries that will react with the tissues inside their body. Click on Button batteries for an example of the damage that can happen to a child if it swallows one.
Placing your baby in it’s own cot to sleep, is the most effective way of reducing the risk of suffocation. There can be a temptation to bring your baby into bed with you – but this should be avoided. Some babies have suffocated when being put in an adult bed or next to a sleeping grown up. The Lullaby Trust which leads on providing advice regarding the prevention of cot deaths, recommend that if parents have been drinking or taking drugs, or are smokers or extremely tired, that they do not co sleep with their baby as the risk increases.
Bedding can also pose a risk to a baby. Duvets or pillows are best avoided, for babies under a year as babies are not able to push them away from their faces. The latest guidance for sleep says to place babies with their feet at the foot of the cot, as this prevents them from wriggling down and being covered with the blanket which may make them overheat and restrict their breathing.
Suffocation – Nappy Sacks pose a suffocation risk to young babies as they are light and will stick to the face if a baby grabs one and pulls it towards the mouth, which will be an involuntary reaction in young babies. We advise you to keep nappy sacks well out of a baby’s reach and never store them under the cot mattress.
Choking – Young babies should not be left alone with a feeding bottle, particularly when it is propped up and they are too young to hold it. This is a choking risk. When babies start first foods, cut food up. Food that is round in shape like grapes, little tomatoes and sausages, are best cut into quarters, to prevent choking. Other choking hazards are when a baby starts to pick up small items and put them in the mouth, as part of exploring new things. Anything smaller than a two pence piece can cause a baby to choke and button batteries are particularly dangerous to a young child if they get stuck in the throat.
Your child has mastered the crawl, moved onto walking, and now follows you around – everywhere! They copy what you do and when you do it. This means this age group is at more risk of poisoning than any other age group. The below advise will help you be able to make sure your toddler stays safe from poisoning.
Choking – At this stage it is the time to create a routine where your child always sits down to eat, this helps to introduce good eating habits and prevent choking. Young children should have their food cut into small pieces to prevent choking. Adults need to be vigilent about leaving small items around that a young child could choke on. Children do like to imitate at this age so be aware of your own behaviour around your child. When buying toys make sure you read the age warning symbols, to ensure they are suitable. Small parts can be a choking risk at this age.
Strangulation – Your child at this age is at greatest risk of strangulation from blind cords, as they will be on the move, exploring the world around them and will not be able to predict danger. It’s safer to keep cots, beds and furniture away from windows, as your child may try and climb up to windows. Make sure you tie the cords up with the fixings provided by the manufacturer and keep them out of reach of young hands.
There have been a number of injuries from young children getting tangled in drawstring bag cords, it’s best not to leave them on the back of door handles, hung over a cot or left on hooks at child height.
Parents should avoid buying clothing for their child with drawstring fastenings around the neck, as this has the potential to leave the child dangling, if caught on an object.
Suffocation – at this age, the main risk of suffocation is during play and exploring. Parents will need to recognise potentially hazardous items and keep them out of reach. A toddler should not be allowed to play with plastic bags or use them to keep toys in. Plastic packaging from new products can also be attractive to toddlers and will need to be discarded straight away.
Even once they have started to learn to walk, toddlers still won’t have mastered the action of chew, swallow, breathe.
The information above in the babies section regarding food applies to this age group as well. There may be a temptation to give your child hard or boiled sweets due to their increase in size and age. Don’t do it!
The same advice applies to when they are eating. Many toddlers wriggle or move when they eat. If you’re not able to see them when they are eating something, then there could be a risk of them choking. Education would be a great tool to use here. Teach them to sit still when eating and concentrate on what they are doing.
Educational advice will also teach your toddler to stop putting everything, they pick up, in their mouths. They may also put things in their ears or nose.
It’s normal for them to try but try to teach them not to quickly and avoid them taking a trip to A&E with a crumbled up biscuit packed into their nose!
Make sure your toddler also only plays with suitable toys. Toys for this age group will have no small parts that can be removed and swallowed or choked on. Any toys that are for older children to use should be kept out of reach of under 5s.
Just as stated above for babies, keeping your medicines and cleaning products locked away up out of reach and out of sight – it’s the safest way to protect your toddler.
Ideally, put them in a high lockable cupboard. It’s also best to keep them in a room which people use a lot. This means if your child has climbed up onto a chair or worktop, and is exploring in cupboards, they are more likely to be seen by an adult or older brother/sister.