How to prevent accidents & what to do if things go wrong

accident banana skin

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Every year, around 2 million children attend A&E due to accidents and over 76,000 of these require admission to hospital – that is nearly 1500 children a week! To help you learn how to prevent these accidents, Emma Hammett, an experienced nurse, trainer and first aid expert has these tips for BritMums readers.

Frightening statistics reveal that accidental injury is the biggest single cause of death in the UK for children over the age of one. More children die each year due to accidents than from illnesses such as leukaemia or meningitis and most of these accidents occur in the home. It is incredibly important to allow our children to take measured risks and experience the inevitable minor bumps and bruises as these are a healthy part of growing up. However, it is vital to have the knowledge to anticipate and prevent serious childhood injuries that can cause long-term damage and have life-changing consequences.

Children develop at different rates; they reach milestones at totally different times and some miss out stages altogether. You will know your child well, but may not anticipate at what point they will suddenly roll, become mobile or be able to reach new heights. It can be helpful to watch a slightly older child explore your home environment, whilst watching them extremely closely. They will discover potential hazards you had not even thought about! When my children were younger, we had regular visits from older cousins and friends’ children. This gave us invaluable insight into the next stages for our little ones. Things of no interest to our children, or things way out of their reach, became a source of fascination for our visitors. Anticipating possible risks was incredibly useful as it meant we were one step ahead in the battle to ensure our children’s safety!

Parents revel in new developments such as grabbing things, rolling over, crawling, standing, climbing, opening bottles and turning handles. However, when these new abilities take us by surprise it can lead to serious childhood accidents.

The six most common childhood accidents are:

  • Falls
  • Burns
  • Choking
  • Suffocation/Strangulation
  • Poisoning
  • Drowning
  • There are simple safety precautions that all households can easily adopt to minimise the risk of children having accidents.

    Preventing Falls

    Never leave a baby in a bouncy chair or car seat on a raised surface.
    Babies and children should always be strapped into highchairs, buggies and car seats.
    Always hold onto the banister when carrying your baby up and downstairs.
    Fit safety gates to your stairs before your baby starts crawling and ensure you keep stairs clear from clutter.
    Teach your baby to come down the stairs backwards.
    Fit safety locks to windows.
    Never leave chairs, large plant pots or furniture near windows, work surfaces, balconies or anywhere dangerous a baby or child could climb onto.
    Secure furniture – particularly bookcases, chest of drawers and TVs – to the wall to prevent them toppling and crushing a child if they try to climb up them.
    Bunk beds are not recommended for children under 6.
    The safest place to change your baby’s nappy is on the floor – be incredibly vigilant when using changing tables.
    Babies and children have heads that are disproportionately large for their bodies and consequently if they fall they often incur a head injury

    Preventing Burns

    Microwaves cook unevenly. Ensure you shake or stir food thoroughly to get rid of hot spots. Always test the temperature before feeding your child.
    Always run cold water into the bath first and use a bath thermometer, as well as checking the temperature yourself before bathing babies. Ideally fit a thermostat or temperature regulator to bath taps.
    Keep hot drinks well out of reach, use a kettle with a short flex and keep it at the back of the work surface.
    Never drink hot drinks while holding a baby and never pass hot drinks over anyone’s head. A drink that has been sitting for 10 or 15 minutes can still be hot enough to burn a baby.
    Use the back rings of the cooker, turn pan handles away from the edge.
    Fit fireguards and radiator guards, turn off heated towel rails whilst your children are at an age when they are likely to pull themselves up on them.
    Be particularly careful of irons, hair straighteners and other hot implements and keep them and their flexes well out of reach. Remember they take a long time to cool.
    If your child is burnt cool the affected area for at least 10 minutes under cool running water. Do not remove any clothing that has stuck to the burn.

    Preventing Choking

    Babies and young children can choke on anything small enough to fit through a loo roll. To prevent choking:
    Keep small objects and all batteries out of reach.
    Cut food into small pieces.
    Supervise children while they’re eating, especially if they’re under five.
    Discourage older children from sharing their food with babies.

    Preventing Suffocation/Strangulation

    Duvets and pillows are not recommended for babies under 12 months.
    Keep nappy sacks and plastic bags well away from babies as if they grab them they can easily suffocate as they don’t have the dexterity to remove them from their faces.
    Never leave a pet unattended with a child.
    Don’t hang drawstring bags on cots, avoid cot bumpers which tie around the cot and use blind cord clips or alternatively choose a cordless blind.
    Never put necklaces or dummies round a baby’s neck.

    Preventing Poisoning

    Some common household chemicals are incredibly toxic to children and can cause seizures, vomiting, blurred vision, acute anaphylaxis and can be fatal.
    Keep all potentially harmful substances out of reach of small children and ideally in a locked cupboard. This includes dishwasher tablets, medicines, alcohol, cosmetics, DIY supplies, cleaning and gardening products and also be aware of potentially poisonous plants.
    Never decant medication or any other products into different containers. Always use the original containers, clearly labelled, ideally with childproof lids.
    Keep batteries out of reach of small children and ensure that batteries in toys and gadgets are secured firmly. Batteries can burn a child’s intestine, causing irreparable damage.
    Fit carbon monoxide alarms and have appliances and alarms regularly checked.
    Tidy up straight after a party, as little ones may well be the first up and could easily finish the dregs of drinks and help themselves to anything else before you’re even awake.
    Be careful of other people’s handbags as they often contain potentially lethal hazards, ask them to keep them closed and out of reach of your children.
    Ideally choose cleaning products containing Bitrex as this is bitter in order to discourage children from drinking them.- Children can easily mistake a dishwasher or washing machine capsule/tablet for a sweet – keep them out of site and don’t be tempted to leave them in the door of the machine. Cleaning products are strong alkali and burn.
    Don’t let children eat any plants in the house, garden or countryside.
    Store medication carefully, be particularly careful with birth control pills and analgesics that are commonly kept on the bedside cabinet.

    Preventing Drowning

    Children should always be supervised as they can drown in surprisingly small amounts of water, just a couple of centimetres. They should never be left alone in a bath, even for a short time. Be vigilant around pools and ponds which should have safety features, such as fencing and gates. Drowning can happen quickly and quietly (unlike the way it is portrayed in films) and causes a frightening number of fatalities every year.
    If you’ve been enjoying water play with your children; always empty bowls and buckets immediately after use.

    Burns, Falls and Emergency CallsEmma Hammett is Author of Burns, Falls and Emergency Calls – The ultimate guide to the prevention and treatment of childhood accidents, endorsed by the CEO of the Child Accident Prevention Trust and the Good Toy Guide.
    It is strongly advised that you attend a practical or online first aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit or for more information about Emma’s courses.

    We have a copy of Emma’s book: Burns, Falls and Emergency Calls to give away. To enter, simply leave a comment below this post to share your own experience or a tip about safety and a winner will be chosen at random after the closing date of Friday 15 September. See our Terms & Conditions for more details.

    First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made or actions taken based on this information.

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    1. 14 September 2017 / 12:41

      So many accidents happen in the home so it is good to know how to react if things go wrong. I wish all parents had access easily to First Aid training and older kids too for that matter.

    2. 14 September 2017 / 13:59

      Being a child minder I have to be first aid trained. During my course it was suggested that when we have small people in the home to crawl on the floor and see the hazards they see. It’s amazing the different perspective hives you

    3. 14 September 2017 / 14:02

      Our eldest has dyspraxia and was constantly falling and tripping over himself. We found table bumpers essential as a trip of fall nearly always happened right by sharp edges!

    4. 14 September 2017 / 15:56

      I sometimes worry about what I’d do in an emergency, but obviously it’s better to prevent an accident in the first place. We have a slip mat in the bath as a slip is an accident that could so easily happen.