Children under five are most at risk from a home accident, which is no surprise given that little ones are generally oblivious to potential hazards.
Adequate supervision will keep your children safe at home as distractions are often the cause of accidents. However, it’s also important to make every room in your house as safe as possible to stop any harm to your children before it happens.
In the kitchen
Every year, more than 67,000 children under the age of 15 will have an accident in the kitchen, states The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA – www.rospa.com). Of these, 43,000 will be under the age of four. The most severe injuries are caused by heat-related accidents – younger children have a higher percentage of burns and scalds than other age groups.
They are also more likely to be accidentally poisoned due to eating or drinking something they shouldn’t.
Also, an average of 13 children a day who are under the age of four suffer a severe injury from a burn or scald. A child’s skin is much more sensitive than an adult’s, which is why a hot drink can still scald a small child up to 15 minutes after it has been made. Recovery can be long and painful, and many children are left with permanent scarring.
Small children, with their inevitable inquisitive ways, like to reach up and discover which mysterious delights await them; so you should always be sure to put hot drinks out of reach and away from the edges of tables and worktops. Use a coiled flex on any hot appliances; even better when it comes to kettles, have a cordless one.
Also, make sure that any furniture and tall appliances that can be pulled or toppled are secured to the wall.
Most poisoning accidents involve medicines, household products and sometimes cosmetics…
More than 28,000 children receive treatment for poisoning, or suspected poisoning accidents, each year. Of these, 25,000 are under-fives who will have to attend an A&E department for treatment.
Keep medicines and chemicals out of sight and reach of children – preferably in a locked cupboard and, wherever possible, buy products in child-resistant containers and dispose of unwanted medicines safely.
In the bathroom
Your child may love splashing about in the tub, but it’s worth remembering that hot bath water is responsible for the highest number of fatal and severe scalding injuries among young children. Around 500, mainly under five years old, are admitted to hospital, and every year a further 2,000 have to attend A&E departments as a result of bath-water scalds.
Children can drown in as little as 3cm of water, so you should never leave young children alone in the bathroom – or the bath – even for a split second. Make sure you run the domestic hot-water system at 46°C or fit a thermostatic mixing valve to taps.
When running a bath, turn the cold water on first before you add any hot to it, and always test the water temperature with your elbow before letting a child get into that bath.
In the bedroom
Looped cords such as blinds cords and chains can pose a risk to youngsters; typically, about one to two children die in the UK each year after becoming tangled in blinds cords.
To reduce these risks, make sure cords on curtains and blinds are kept out of reach. And, if you’re buying from new, install blinds that don’t have a cord, particularly in a child’s bedroom.
Children can swallow, inhale, fall over or choke on items such as marbles and small toys. Nappy sacks, used to dispose of soiled nappies, can also pose a risk to babies and toddlers, so keep these out of reach.
Stairs and windows
Falls are by far the most common cause of injury in the home, accounting for 44% of all children’s accidents.
Every year, more than 4,200 children are involved in falls on the stairs, and 4,000 children under the age of 15 are injured falling from windows, with older children more likely to sustain fractures.
A stairs safety gate will keep crawling toddlers safe. It’ll allow your child to explore while restricting access to the stairs so they can’t fall down.
Around 10 die as a result of falls each year – some from windows and balconies. So avoid placing an object under any window that your little one can climb onto, and be sure to fit child-resistant window restrictors.
Every year, hundreds of children are killed following an accident involving glass, so use toughened varieties which pass the impact test in replacement windows.
Climbing frames can provide your kids with hours of fun, but they can also be a huge danger. If you decide to buy a climbing frame for your children, be sure to purchase one that’s appropriate for their age group, and make sure you supervise them at all times. The same rule applies to all other garden toys such as a trampoline, swings and slides.
Your child may view the garden as a jungle filled with fascinating wildlife, but they can carry an assortment of diseases, and even the most seemingly docile pets can turn aggressive. It’s for this reason that you must keep a specially close eye on children if there are animals around, whether they’re unknown to you or not.
You should teach your children to approach pets with care, in a calm and gentle manner, and to avoid wild or stray animals at all costs. News stories have highlighted the dangers and tragedies of even the most friendly family dog turning on a child, so extra vigilance is paramount for safety.
While that spiky hedgehog or unfamiliar cat might look cute, it may bite or attack if approached, so tell your child to steer clear.
Also encourage your children to wash their hands after stroking a pet, to avoid kissing or sharing food with any animal, and to tell you immediately if they’ve been bitten or scratched by an animal so that you can take them to be treated by a medical expert as soon as possible.
Be wary of shallow water
Water holds a special fascination for children, even a harmless looking shallow pond. According to RoSPA, 147 children under the age of six have drowned at a residential location in the past 10 years. This includes those who fell into a bucket, drowned in a private swimming pool and, most notably, fell into a garden pond.
While very attractive to look at, ponds (and other water features), can be deadly to small, inquisitive children.
The muddy water and concealed tangle of plants can be extremely dangerous for all young children – and especially for toddlers who haven’t learned to swim yet.
That’s why garden ponds should always be filled in while your children are little enough to come to harm, or securely fenced off with a tough, secure grid made of quality materials.
Grids are available that can be placed either just below or above the water’s surface, are lightweight and easy to cut, but are incredibly strong – perfect for protecting children.
'There are risks outside the home, too. As soon as your child is keen to spend less time in the buggy, teach them about road safety. Make it a fun experience by getting them to point out cars of a certain colour.'
Dangers in the garden
A brilliant place for children to play, the garden is somewhere they can run free, both literally and with their imaginations. Through a child’s eyes, a climbing frame may appear to be a castle, the lawn could be the castle grounds, and the pond an alluring mystical lagoon.
For this very reason, however, young children should never ever be left unsupervised when they’re playing outdoors.
There are many potential hazards in your seemingly safe garden, from plants with poisonous leaves or berries to those that can irritate the skin or cause allergies. (Always read the label carefully when you’re making a garden-centre purchase.)
Toys that are not tidied away can become trip hazards, while greenhouses are an obvious issue if glass is broken. If you are considering buying a greenhouse, it’s certainly wise to choose a brand that has special safety-glazing features.
Indoors and out, there are dangers that can crop up – even when your child is playing with friends
Most accidents happen between late afternoon and early evening, in the summer, during school holidays and at weekends. Boys are particularly prone to showing off and they often seem to overestimate their abilities, especially among friends. Many accidents are caused by horseplay involving pushing and wrestling.
Domestic fires pose one of the greatest risks to children. Youngsters playing with matches and lighters frequently accidentally start house fires, so keep these out of sight – and reach of – children. Always use a fireguard and secure it to the wall; cover your fireplace if you have one with a fire screen; and if you smoke, extinguish and dispose of cigarettes properly.