Top ten tips for a safer home
Ten things in ten minutes to make your home safer this Child Safety Week
Over two million children have an accident every year. Lots of these are easily preventable. Here are ten simple things our public health consultant, Dr Chris Chiswell, recommends that you can do today to keep the children in your house safe.
1) Check your smoke alarms
You are four times more likely to die in a fire if you don’t have a smoke alarm that works. Test your smoke alarm before bed time tonight, and talk to your children about what to do if they hear it for real. Put a recurring reminder in your phone to check them every month.
2) Keep cleaning products, medicines and matches out of sight in secure, high level cupboards.
Laundry and dishwasher liquid tablets, medicines, e-cigarette refills and air fresheners can all look edible to your curious little one. Keep these items in secure containers, and out of reach or in cupboards with safety catches. Stand in your kitchen and bathroom and take a minute to think what your child could get to.
3) Learn how dangerous button batteries can be.
We are really worried about button batteries, and they are everywhere – in car keys, musical birthday cards, led candles and imported toys. When swallowed by a child, they can get stuck in the throat and silently start producing strong acid that damages vital internal organs. Know where they are, and make sure they’re safe. Act quickly if you ever think your child has swallowed a battery.
4) Make sure hair straighteners, hot pans and the iron are never left within reach of your child.
Around 1 in 20 admissions to burns unit for children involved incidents with hair straighteners. They reach temperatures more than double that of boiling water, and often stay hot for over half an hour after being turned off. Think where you keep them, and how you make sure they stay safe, even when you’re in a hurry.
5) Look at your window blind cords through the eyes of your child, and check they are out of reach or have a safety mechanism if caught around your child’s neck.
Toddlers are particularly vulnerable, as they are exploring the world, but still lack full muscle strength to free a relatively heavy head if they get tangled. They also have weaker and smaller windpipes than adults, so can suffocate far more quickly. Check each blind.
6) Secure tall cupboards, drawers and TVs to the wall so they can’t fall over
This heart-stopping video set the internet ablaze last year. Even if it was staged as some have suggested, this happens to children in UK homes every year. Yes, you were exhausted after building the flatpack, but what is the piece of furniture in your house that could do this to your child? Contact the shop for new safety fixings, or order replacements tonight.
7) Practice safe sleeping for your baby
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome claims the lives of 4 babies every week in the UK. Putting your child to sleep on their back, and the base of the cot and having that cot in the same room as you for the first 6 months of life makes a difference. Keeping your house smokefree, and the room at the right temperature can also help. It can be hard to decide what to do when they’re crying at 2am, so make a promise to them now about how you’ll keep them safe tonight.
8) Secure upstairs windows with locks or catches, and keep your stairs safe
Birmingham Children’s Hospital sadly treats a number of children each year that have fallen from upstairs windows. Falls account for nearly half of all children’s accidents. Do you have stairgates, and are windows your child could climb to locked with keys or an opening restrictor. Think how ingenious your child is normally, and then take a second look at your window and stairs.
9) Check your car seat is fitted correctly
A study published this week showed over half of children are sitting in car seats that were either incorrectly fitted or inappropriate for them. Children should ideally sit in rear facing seats for a minimum of 15 months, and potentially much longer. Most accidents are frontal collisions, and facing backwards reduces the equivalent force on the neck from up to 300kg (the weight of a piano) to about 50kg. Find someone to look after the children, and check your car seat in a moment’s peace rather than when you’re rushing to get out the house.
10) Know how to get help and advice if you need it
Watching your little one grow and explore the world around them can be an exciting and satisfying time as a parent. But they’re still learning, and taking just a few simple and cheap safety actions could make all the difference. For more information on Child Safety Week, visit the Child Accident Prevention Trust