Accidents and injuries - Keeping your child safe in the 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.

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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.

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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.

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).

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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.

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.

For more information click here.

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.

BUTTON BATTERIES

Button batteries are the small, round batteries you find in a growing number of toys and everyday objects like remote controls and car key fobs. They can be extremely dangerous for children if swallowed.

There are lots of different sizes and types of button batteries. Lithium button batteries are most dangerous as they are larger and more powerful. If they get stuck in a child’s throat, they can cause serious internal burns or even death within hours of being swallowed.

Why are button batteries dangerous?

Most button batteries pass through the body without a problem. But if a button battery, particularly a lithium button battery, gets stuck in the throat or gullet, energy from the battery can react with saliva to make the body create caustic soda. This is the same chemical used to unblock drains!

This can burn a hole through the throat and can lead to serious internal bleeding and death. The reaction can happen in as little as two hours.

For more information click here




ELECTRIC SHOCKS

The good news is that children are at very little risk from electric shocks. Electrical sockets are designed to be safe. But electricity can be dangerous in other ways. Old electrical appliances and wiring, and children playing with electrical appliances, can cause burns and house fires.

Parents should be aware of how much their children have learned, and what they are capable of doing with electrical appliances.

CAPT’s age-targeted leaflets give parents an indication of what their child is capable of doing.

How dangerous is electricity?

  • Serious electric shocks are not as common as many people think. In 2010-11, 60 children (under 15) were admitted to hospital after an electric shock. This compares to 47,000 under 15s admitted to hospital as a result of falls.
  • The main danger with electricity is that it can cause house fires. Faulty electrics start up to one in six house fires. Causes include loose wiring, damaged cables and leads, and faulty or misused electrical appliances.

How can accidents with electricity be prevented?

If parents are aware of the dangers of electricity, they can teach their children, as they grow up, to be aware of the dangers too. But younger children might not know the dangers, and they become curious before they know what they are playing with. Many parents might not know that their toddler is able to plug in an iron or electric fire.

Most accidents that happen with children and electricity can be prevented by keeping potentially dangerous devices out of young children’s reach and away from water. For example:

  • Electrical devices such as hairdryers and mains-operated radios should be kept out of the bathroom.

Other situations, where electrical equipment fails or is used incorrectly, can be prevented by educating parents about the right way to use electrical appliances. For example:

  • Plug sockets should not be overloaded. Be aware not just of how many plugs are going into one socket, but also how much power they are using. Kettles and irons use more power than lamps and even TVs.
  • Older electrical appliances can cause house fires. Check plugs, sockets and wires for scorching or fraying. If there’s a problem, use a registered electrician to fix them.

More information

CAPT’s range of leaflets and booklets will support you in your work with parents and carers by underlining the key safety messages. The leaflets are written with different stages of child development in mind, and are a key support tool when teaching parents about child accident prevention.

For more information on electrical safety, visit the Electrical Safety Council website.

This resource is a support tool for practitioners, and is not meant to provide stand-alone safety advice. If you would like teaching aids for workshops, you can purchase some of our colourful, engaging safety resources in the online shop.

There are other important aspects of accident prevention, such as legislation and the physical, social and financial environment that children and families live in. Find out more about the role of practitioners in preventing childhood injuries and deaths from accidents.

TOY SAFETY

Most children's toys are actually very safe. Accidents involving toys usually happen when a young child plays with a toy that is meant for an older child, or when someone trips over toys that have been left out. The reminders below will give you an idea of how to help your child play safely.

Did you know...

  • Most toys in the Uk are safe if you follow the instructions. the law says all toys must have a suggested age range, so they aren't given to children too young to play with them.
  • One of the main causes of toy accidents is toys with small parts. If a child is given a toy designed for an older child they can break it and end up swallowing small parts.


Which toys should I buy?

There are so many great toys on the market it can be hard to choose the right one. If you’re not sure, the tips below will help you choose something safe and fun for your child.

The best place to shop for toys is a specialist toy shop or recognised high street shop. These shops won’t sell toys that don’t meet the right safety standards. They also have sales staff on-hand to give you advice on what to buy, and which toys are best for your child.

It’s best to be careful with second hand toys. If you’re looking to save money, a toy library might be a safer option – they’ll lend you toys that are appropriate and in good condition.

Look for the safety symbols. Toys will have a warning on the packaging if they’re not suitable for children under 36 months. Toys with small parts, for instance, will usually have this warning. Also look out for the lion mark – it shows that the manufacturer claims the toys have been made to higher standards of safety and quality.

Which toys are suitable for my child?

All toys should have a label telling you the age they are designed for. The hints below are just a guide to help you choose a toy your child can enjoy safely.

All children develop at different speeds. But even so, it’s best to stick to the age advice on toy packaging. If a baby plays with a toy that has small parts or long fur, they might choke or swallow bits of the toy. Marbles and magnets can also be choked on or swallowed, and magnets are particularly dangerous as they can cause serious problems if swallowed. Toy manufacturers know what is safe and what isn’t so it’s best to follow their age guides.

Sharing toys teaches children good habits, but be careful if older children are sharing their toys. What’s safe for a 7 year old might not be safe for a toddler.

More risky toys can still be fun, if you’re there to play with your child. Toys like baking kits, baby bath toys or chemistry sets will help your children learn, but you’ll need to be there to make sure your child doesn’t get hurt.

How can I keep my child’s toys safe?

Keeping things tidy can be a real hassle, especially with very young children. But encouraging your child to put toys away helps to keep your home safe. As one of the main risks to children is tripping or falling over toys, putting them away in a toy box can save tears. Tidying up things like balloons is especially important – burst balloons are a choking hazard for young children.

Throwing things away can seem wasteful, but if a toy is broken or damaged, it’s better to throw it away than give it to a charity shop or jumble sale. The broken toy could go on to cause accidents for other children.

Battery-powered toys have usually passed rigorous safety tests. But as the batteries wear out, try to avoid mixing old and new batteries - the older batteries could overheat in the toy.

Batteries in children’s toys are covered by safety regulations. They should either be enclosed by a screw and a secure compartment or need two independent or simultaneous movements to open the battery compartment. But remember that older children may still be able to open secure battery compartments.

Toys bought online or from markets, discount stores or temporary shops may not follow the appropriate safety regulations. For example, trading standards officers have issued warnings about light-up fidget spinners where the battery is easily accessible to children.

Read more about the dangers posed by button batteries

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