The NHS estimates that every year, 1 million children under the age of 15 are taken to accident and emergency due to an accident that occurred in the home. This is a big safety concern and one that tends to become more prevalent during the school holidays.
Threats to child safety
There are many things to be aware of with regards to your children’s safety, but we’ve outlined some of the most common potential threats to look out for. For more information on child safety please visit the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) websites.
RoSPA reports that around 44% of all children’s accidents are caused by falls in the home. Minor injuries can be caused by tripping over, but more serious injuries are caused by falls from a height, such as a high chair, a bunk bed or falling down the stairs.
Burns and scalding
According to CAPT thousands of children are treated in hospital for burns every year and the majority are under-5s. Most burn accidents happen in the home in the kitchen or with hot bath water and hot drinks.
Poisoning is also a common cause of hospital admissions, especially in younger children. Swallowing medicines are the most common reason for children being admitted into hospital.
Choking & Suffocating
Babies and small children are most at risk from choking or suffocating according to RoSPA. This is because they are more likely to put small objects in their mouth.
Preventing child-related accidents
RoSPA is clear that there is no way to completely ‘child-proof’ your home. The best thing you can do is limit the areas that young children can play in and be vigilant at all times. RoSPA have many guidelines on causes and how to prevent accidents, product safety and safety equipment in the home, including downloadable PDFs.
Keeping your stairs free from clutter is crucial in preventing falls on the stairs. If you have small children a safety gate should be fitted at the top and bottom of the stairs.
Many children get hurt because they fall onto an object or because an object falls on them, so it’s important to make sure the floor surrounding a high chair or bed is clear from sharp objects and that furniture, like televisions, are secure and unable to fall. You should also make sure that children can’t climb to the windows.
Burns and scalding
Keeping young children out of the kitchen when you are cooking and away from the kettle, are the best ways to prevent a burn accident in the kitchen.
For hot bath water, CAPT suggests that baths can be fitted with a thermostatic mixing valve (TMV) to regulate the heat of the bath so that young children can’t get burned. Often children get burnt because of a distracted parent, as it only takes 5 seconds for a toddler to receive a third degree burn from water that’s 60C.
Burns from hair straighteners are also becoming increasingly common. Parents should make sure their children are old enough to use them and make them aware of the dangers, check that hair straighteners are unplugged after use and keep them out of reach of young children.
CAPT has many resources to help educate and prevent burns and scalding. You can also download the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly PCT accident prevention strategy PDF.
Like many common injuries to children, poisoning is most common in under-5s. It is always paramount to keep any dangerous medicine and harmful liquids like cleaning products out of the reach of young children. Some three year olds can open child-resistant packaging so it’s important never to leave medicine or cleaning products like bleach lying around.
Choking and Suffocating
According to RoSPA, nappy sacks pose a risk of suffocation in much the same way plastic bags do, so parents should be vigilant and keep them secure and out of the way of babies and toddlers. You can find more materials on nappy sack risk awareness here.
Always check that toys are appropriate for your child’s age and keep small objects like marbles away from children under three.
Flashpoint Lifeskills Centre
To help understand the risks and prevent accidents from happening to children in the home you can take part in a Flashpoint Lifeskills course. Flashpoint Lifeskills Centre is a community initiative, set by the Cornwall Fire & Rescue Service as an interactive learning centre to provide valuable safety information to children and vulnerable people. The courses offered to groups include the following topics. Home and fire safety; e-safety and personal protective behaviours; farm, beach and rail safety; flood awareness. To find out more visit the Flashpoint Lifeskills page.
If an accident happens
If an accident happens to your child in the home, it’s always best to call 999 immediately or take them to A&E unless you are positive that the accident is not serious. If the accident involves a bump on the head, burns or swallowing anything that could be potentially harmful, always play it safe and treat it as an emergency.