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How do I prevent…?

Fires

Fires

It’s good news that fires in the home have decreased in recent years, but three quarters of fire deaths and casualties still occur in the home.

Accidents involving fires can cause the most serious types of injury. Toddlers are at particular risk as they tend to be naturally inquisitive. Sadly, accidents can happen in a split second, especially if you’re distracted.

But, by taking a few simple steps, you can help keep your child safe.

 

Of all the rooms in our homes, our kitchens contain the most obvious set of dangers. Sharp things. Electric things. Hot things. Poisonous things. Spiky things. With a list like that, it’s all the more important we take extra care in the kitchen, especially when children are around:

"I didn't want to take any chances as I had heard about how toxic liquid laundry capsules could be, so I took Eva to hospital where she was kept in intensive care overnight.”

Juliet, mum to Eva.
  • Keep dangerous medicines and cleaning products high up, out of reach and, ideally, locked away.
  • Liquid laundry capsules are bright, squidgy and can, to a toddler, look just like sweets. Sadly however, inquisitive youngsters have needed medical attention after swallowing or biting them. There’s also the risk of serious eye injuries if they pop in a child’s eye. Keep them out of sight, high up or preferably locked away.
  • You don’t need locks on all your kitchen cupboards but, unless you’re sure they can’t be reached, things like liquid laundry capsules, chemicals and medicines should be locked away.
  • Knives can be deadly – keep them out of reach at all times, ideally in a locked drawer.

As a new parent, some of the very first decisions we are faced with is how to transport our child around safely. From car seats, to pushchairs to baby slings, there’s a lot to get your head around...

  • Child seats save kids’ lives. However, it’s vital that we choose the right seat for our child’s height and weight, and that the seat is fitted properly. If you’re in any doubt, pop in to a reputable shop to ask for advice, or visit our dedicated child car seat website.
  • Even in a minor crash, kids who aren’t strapped in could be thrown about inside the vehicle, or even through the window. Always strap your child safely in their car seat before a journey.
  • Pushchairs and buggies are generally very safe. However, it’s always good to check that the brakes work correctly and that they're properly unfolded before you use them.
  • If buying a second-hand pushchair, make sure there’s no damage such as sharp edges or torn fabric that could hurt or choke your child.
  • Always keep children away from the pushchair when it is being folded or unfolded to reduce the risk of little fingers being caught.
  • When your child is in their buggy, keep them harnessed at all times to stop them falling out.
  • Don’t forget, children should always travel flat on their backs until around six-months-old, when they are strong enough to support their heads themselves.
  • Some slings are designed badly and tragically have caused suffocation. Make sure you choose a sling that allows you to see your baby’s face at all times, as well as carrying them upright and keeping them close enough to kiss.
  • Because babies do not have strong neck control, their heads are more likely to flop forward. If using a baby sling be sure to keep newborns’ chins off their chest at all times.
  • It might seem harmless, but tragic accidents can happen right on our doorstep. Be aware of toddlers playing on driveways, as you might not always be able to spot them from inside a car. Make sure you know where they are at all times, especially if reversing.
  • Too many children have been crushed and died when a car has rolled on their driveway. If your driveway is on a slope, no matter how steep, always park in gear. This will stop your car if your handbrake fails.
  • Keep your keys out of reach of little hands. Kids love nothing more than to copy their parents. Some have been known to let themselves into cars, and even start the engine – with potentially deadly consequences.

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, it can be great fun taking your little one outside – especially in the warmer months. However, there are simple steps we can take to make sure playtime is fun:

  • If you have a garden pond or swimming pool, fit a locking fence around it to stop children falling in. For ponds, you might prefer to fit a rigid grille over the top. You could even think about filling it in – ponds can be easily converted into flowerbeds or sandpits, just until your child’s a bit older.
  • Paddling pools can be great fun to splash around in during the summer months. However, it can take just a minute for children to drown in a few centimetres of water. Never leave children to play unattended.
  • Many trampolines aren’t suitable for children under 6 as they’re not yet sufficiently developed to be able to control their bouncing. Always choose a trampoline with a net. Small children are also better off bouncing alone – and definitely never with an adult, who could crush them if they fell.
  • We may enjoy a spot of gardening in the summer, but tools and equipment such as pruning shears, saws, hedge trimmers and lawn mowers can all seriously hurt small children. Be sure to put tools away after use – a locked shed is best.
  • Common garden chemicals, such as slug pellets, solvents, paint or plant food can all be deadly if swallowed by children. Be sure to put away all chemicals when you’ve finished with them. Again, a locked shed is the safest place.
  • Nothing says summer like the smell of burning sausages on a barbecque. Make sure your barbecque is on a level, stable surface and keep little ones from venturing too close.
  • Some garden plants, such as bright red yew berries, laburnum pods and foxgloves, are especially attractive to small children. They’re also incredibly toxic, and can even lead to death. Always read the label carefully if you’re buying new plants. If you’re unsure about the existing plants in your garden, visit a flower shop or garden centre for more advice.

Whether you’re going abroad or enjoying a staycation, there are some easy points to consider when going away with a little one...

  • Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer because you can’t see it, hear it, smell it or taste it. It can be released from faulty gas boilers and fires – with potentially deadly consequences. At home we’d always recommend getting appliances regularly serviced but for holidays a small, portable CO alarm is inexpensive and takes up little room in your suitcase. It will give you peace of mind... and might even save your life.
  • If you’re camping, don’t be tempted to bring your barbecque into your tent – even if it’s raining. Barbecques give off carbon monoxide even whilst cooling, which in an unventilated area like a tent, can be deadly.
  • We all love being out in the sun, but too much can cause painful sunburn and dehydration – which can be especially dangerous for small children. Make sure you keep babies under the age of six months out of direct sunlight, especially around midday. Always remember to encourage your child to wear a hat and apply sun cream regularly in hot weather, no matter how old they are.
  • When booking a holiday in a hotel or villa with a swimming pool check the safety arrangements in advance. Is the pool fenced off? Do they have a lifeguard? It only takes a second for a toddler or small child to wander away and end up in the water.
  • If you’re planning to go swimming in the sea or a lake, plan in advance. Look for a spot with a lifeguard and always pay attention to any safety signs.

For kids, houses aren’t just a place to eat and sleep – they’re magical adventure spaces just waiting to be explored. While playing at home is a great way for children to learn, some things could seriously hurt, or even kill them. Getting down on our knees so we can see things from a child’s height is a great way to spot dangers we might otherwise miss. Here’s a list of other things you might not have thought of:

  • Kids love running around, and in winter especially they are liable to get a touch of cabin fever! Keep your floors clear from obstacles, especially the stairs, so that your kids (or you) don’t trip over. For under-5s falls are by far the biggest accidental cause of A&E attendance and hospital admission, so making little changes could make a big difference. Rugs should be taped down to prevent them from slipping, trailing cables should be tucked away, and wet floors can be super slippy. Running in socks on a wooden floor can lead to a nasty fall!
 

"If she has her slippers on it tends to stop her slipping. I'd rather bare feet than socks.”

Carly, mum of two.
  • While playing alongside your child is always the best way to keep them safe, it’s impossible to watch them every second of every day. A play pen can be a useful safe space for the times that your back is turned.
  • Make sure any medications, alcohol, cleaning products and any other chemicals are kept high up and out of reach – or even better, in a locked cupboard.
  • Little ones love to climb – make sure all heavy furniture such as bookcases and fireplaces are secured to the wall. Be extra aware of heavy flat-screen TVs too, as a number of children have been seriously hurt, or even killed, when they’ve pulled them down on top of themselves. Also remember that babies love to roll – never leave them alone on a high surface like a chair, sofa, or kitchen counter. Parents can get caught out thinking that their baby hasn’t yet mastered the art, but there’s always a first time!
  • Little fingers can be badly crushed in doors. You can use a door jammer to prevent them slamming shut – although an old towel thrown over the top of the door will work just as well.
  • Make sure your home is free from serious dangers that could hurt them while your back is turned. Fires should be guarded, hot drinks should be kept well out of reach and blind cords should be tied up and out of reach.
  • Put knives and other sharp objects away after use, and store them out of sight and reach.
  • Electric socket covers aren’t necessary because modern UK sockets have in-built safety features. However, it’s always a good idea to put appliances out of reach of little fingers so they can’t plug them in.
  • Remember, 1-2 year olds are naturally very inquisitive - they like to taste everything! Be extra careful around things they can choke on, or around things that might make them sick, such as medicine, broken glass or dog poo.

While you might have checked out the obvious risks in your home – the oven, the bathroom, the medicine cabinet – what about those toys lurking in the playroom? Here are some things to look out for...

  • Toys should be checked regularly for signs of damage. Sharp edges, loose hair or fur, exposed wires or frayed material can all cause problems. Sharp points can be particularly dangerous, as they could hurt your child’s eyes.
  • It’s not just food that babies can choke on. Be aware of small parts they could potentially put in their mouths. If you have older children, think about their toys too. Make sure they are tidied away out of reach when they’ve finished playing so that younger ones don’t get hold of them.
  • Button batteries (or button cell batteries) are the small, flat, often silver batteries found in many children’s toys and even in musical birthday and Christmas cards. They’re especially dangerous to young children, who might be tempted to put them in their mouth and swallow them, potentially causing internal burns that could cause death in the most serious cases. Always make sure battery compartments on toys are locked and that little fingers can’t get to them. Store spare batteries as you would any dangerous chemical – out of sight and ideally locked away.
  • If you suspect your child has swallowed a battery, don’t let them eat or drink anything and don’t try to make them sick. Instead, go immediately to hospital, by ambulance if necessary. Remember, every second counts.
  • Generally speaking, toys are likely to be safer if they are bought from a recognised retailer, as opposed to a market, jumble sale, car boot sale or eBay.
  • Always check the label and packaging to make sure the toy is appropriate for your child’s age. What might be fun for an older child might not be suitable for a baby or toddler.
  • It’s also important to check for a CE mark (which confirms the product has been made to current European standards), or a bright red and yellow lion mark (which goes beyond a CE mark and means the British Toy & Hobby Association have classified it as safe). Remember: ‘novelties’ (which are often sold at Christmas) are not sold as toys and not made to the same standards.
  • Dressing up can be loads of fun, but take extra care at Halloween, Christmas, birthdays and other times when there are naked flames around as children can be badly burned if their costumes catch fire.
  • When it comes to choosing costumes, buy from reputable stores, and again look for a CE mark to make sure it’s good quality, as well as generally making sure it’s in a good state of repair. Be aware of any loose ribbons, strings or ties that could get caught round your child’s neck.
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