How do I prevent…?

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is sometimes called “the silent killer” – and for good reason. You can’t smell it, see it or taste it, and yet a leak – from a faulty boiler, fire, gas cooker or wood burner, for example – can be deadly. Not only for young children, but for all the family.

Thankfully, these types of accidents don’t have to happen. There are plenty of steps you can take to ensure you and your family are safe – at home, or on holiday.



Drowning can be quick and quiet, and children are often not seen entering the water due to distraction or lack of supervision: a one minute phone call or message is ample time for a child to drown.

Death, or a life-changing injury such as brain damage, can happen in as little as 70 seconds, with only a very small amount of inhaled water needed to cause drowning.

Drowning is a process caused by water covering the airway (known as immersion). This leads to water being inhaled into the lungs, affecting or stopping breathing, then quickly stopping oxygen to the brain. This can result in life-changing or fatal injuries.

‘Dry drowning’, ‘near drowning’ or ‘secondary drowning’ are phrases you may have read in the newspaper or on social media.

These are misleading and non-medical terms – they are really referring to the medical complications that occur after a 'drowning event', which is when a person has been immersed in water for any period of time that leads to oxygen being prevented from reaching the brain.

After a 'drowning event', medical complications might take several hours to present and ultimately can be life-threatening.

Drowning is a medical emergency. Even if you only suspect a drowning might have happened, you should call 999 and get to hospital as soon as possible.

Look out for distress, coughing, struggling for breath, discharge from the lungs or loss of consciousness. Nobody will criticise caution when a suspected child drowning is concerned.

Early and sustained CPR can reduce the injury and greatly helps improves the chances of survival.

NB: NHS Choices has an in-depth guide on CPR. We’d also advise parents and carers to take a child first aid training course – they’re available from a variety of providers.


Falls from a height are thankfully rare, but when they do happen they can be devastating. While keeping a close eye on your little one is the safest thing you can do, we know it’s not always easy – and accidents can take place in the blink of an eye. By taking the following steps, you can make sure your home is that little bit safer:

  • Never place furniture near windows, especially in bedrooms. It’s amazing what toddlers can use as a ladder
  • Make sure all upstairs windows have a window restrictor fitted. This allows windows to open enough to allow fresh air in, but not children out.


The stairs are a common place for serious falls to take place, both for toddlers who are still finding their feet, and occasionally for adults who are carrying young children. Taking a few simple measures can help make your stairs a safer place:

  • Keep stairs free from clutter that could cause you or your little one to slip
  • Fit wall mounted safety gates at the top AND bottom of the stairs
  • If you’re struggling to choose a gate, check out this guide to buying stair gates (courtesy of Which?)
  • Stairs should be carefully maintained. Damaged or worn carpet should be repaired or removed
  • Make sure balustrades are strong and do not have any footholds for climbing
  • Stairs should always be well lit.

There are countless items in our homes and gardens that can cause nasty slips or trips. Here are some to be especially watchful for:

  • Never leave babies unattended on raised surfaces
  • Do not place baby bouncers on raised surfaces - they could fall off with the movement of the baby
  • Always change nappies on the floor, rather than a high table top or sofa
  • Always use a securely fitted five point harness in a pram, pushchair or highchair
  • Keep garden play equipment like swings, slides and climbing frames well-maintained.
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