Did you know that injuries are the leading cause of death of children younger than 4 years in the United States?
Most of these injuries can be prevented.
Often, injuries happen because parents are not aware of what their children can do. At this age your child can walk, run, climb, jump, and explore everything. Because of all the new things he or she can do, this stage is a very dangerous time in your child’s life. It is your responsibility to protect your child from injury. Your child cannot understand danger or remember “no” while exploring.
Children in homes where guns are present are in more danger of being shot by themselves, their friends, or family members than of being injured by an intruder. It is best to keep all guns out of the home. Handguns are especially dangerous. If you choose to keep a gun, keep it unloaded and in a locked place, with the ammunition locked separately. Ask if the homes where your child visits or is cared for have guns and how they are stored.
Children continue to explore their world by putting everything in their mouths, even if it doesn’t taste good. Your child can open doors and drawers, take things apart, and open bottles easily now, so you must use safety caps on all medicines and toxic household products. Keep the safety caps on at all times or find safer substitutes to use. Contact Poison Help for more information.
Your child is now able to get into and on top of everything. Be sure to keep all household products and medicines completely out of sight and reach. Never store lye drain cleaners in your home. Keep all products in their original containers.
To prevent serious falls, lock the doors to any dangerous areas. Use gates on stairways and install operable window guards above the first floor. Remove sharp-edged furniture from the room your child plays and sleeps in. At this age your child will walk well and start to climb, jump, and run as well. A chair left next to a kitchen counter, table, or window allows your child to climb to dangerously high places. Remember, your child does not understand what is dangerous.
If your child has a serious fall or does not act normally after a fall, call your doctor.
The kitchen is a dangerous place for your child during meal preparation. Hot liquids, grease, and hot foods spilled on your child will cause serious burns. A safer place for your child while you are cooking, eating, or unable to give him your full attention is the playpen, crib, or stationary activity center, or buckled into a high chair. It’s best to keep your child out of the kitchen while cooking.
Children who are learning to walk will grab anything to steady themselves, including hot oven doors, wall heaters, or outdoor grills. Keep your child out of rooms where there are hot objects that may be touched or put a barrier around them.
Your child will reach for your hot food or cup of coffee, so don’t leave it within your child’s reach. NEVER carry your child and hot liquids at the same time. You can’t handle both.
If your child does get burned, immediately put cold water on the burned area. Keep the burned area in cold water for a few minutes to cool it off. Then cover the burn loosely with a dry bandage or clean cloth. Call your doctor for all burns. To protect your child from tap water scalds, the hottest temperature at the faucet should be no more than 120°F. In many cases you can adjust your water heater.
Make sure you have a working smoke alarm on every level of your home, especially in furnace and sleeping areas. Test the alarms every month. It is best to use smoke alarms that use long-life batteries, but if you do not, change the batteries at least once a year.
At this age your child loves to play in water. NEVER leave your child alone in or near a bathtub, pail of water, wading or swimming pool, or any other water, even for a moment. Empty all buckets after each use. Keep the bathroom doors closed. Your child can drown in less than 2 inches of water. Knowing how to swim does NOT mean your child is safe near or in water. Stay within an arm’s length of your child around water.
If you have a swimming pool, fence it on all 4 sides with a fence at least 4 feet high, and be sure the gates are self-latching. Most children drown when they wander out of the house and fall into a pool that is not fenced off from the house. You cannot watch your child every minute while he or she is in the house. It only takes a moment for your child to get out of your house and fall into your pool.
And Remember Car Safety
Car crashes are a great danger to your child’s life and health. The crushing forces to your child’s brain and body in a crash or sudden stop, even at low speeds, can cause severe injuries or death. To prevent these injuries USE a car safety seat EVERY TIME your child rides in the car. All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer. Most convertible seats have limits that will permit children to ride rear-facing for 2 years or more. Be sure that the safety seat is installed correctly. Read and follow the instructions that come with the car safety seat and the instructions for using car safety seats in the owners’ manual of your car. The safest place for all infants and children to ride is in the back seat.
Do not leave your child alone in or around the car. Keep vehicles and their trunks locked. Children who are left in a car can die of heat stroke because temperatures can reach deadly levels in minutes. They can be strangled by power windows or knock the vehicle into gear. Always walk behind your car to be sure your child is not there before you back out of your driveway. You may not see your child behind your car in the rearview mirror.
Injuries to babies are preventable
Injuries are the most common cause of death in childhood beyond the first year of life and are a major reason for children needing medical attention.
Most injuries to babies do not occur by chance or by bad luck, and are not an act of fate. The majority of injuries are predictable and largely preventable. The term ‘injury’ is now used rather than ‘accident’ (accident implies that the event could not have been prevented).
By their very nature, babies are active, curious and often excitable. These are all attributes that put them at risk of injury. As a parent or carer, you can do a lot to prevent injury to your baby.
Keeping your baby safe
Make your baby’s safety a priority. Some of the key areas you must keep in mind are:
- Take your baby home from hospital in a capsule or other suitable child restraint that faces the back of the car.
- Make sure your baby travels in a child restraint at all times in a vehicle.
- Provide a safe sleeping environment for your baby – this includes taking precautions to reduce the risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), which includes SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and fatal sleep accidents.
- Provide a safe environment at home.
- Check the safety of your environment when you are away from home.
Slings for carrying babies
If used correctly, baby slings are safe and practical tool for parents, but infants can be at risk of suffocation if they are not placed in the correct position in the sling, because they are not yet old enough to move out of a dangerous position that can block their airways.
The two positions that can cause significant danger are when the baby is lying in the sling with a curved back with its chin resting on its chest and when the baby is lying with its face pressed into the wearer’s body or the fabric of the sling.
Premature, low birth weight babies or babies who are unwell are at greater risk and parents should talk to a doctor before using a sling.
The good news is that by following the ‘T.I.C.K.S.’ rule, parents can easily remember how to position their baby correctly. The T.I.C.K.S. rule for baby sling safety is:
- Tight – the sling should be tight, with the baby positioned high and upright with head support. Any loose fabric may cause the baby to slump down, restricting its breathing.
- In view at all times – the wearer should always be able to see the baby’s face by simply looking down. Make sure the baby’s face, nose and mouth remain uncovered by the sling and the wearer’s body.
- Close enough to kiss – the baby should be close enough to the wearer’s chin that by tipping their head forward, they can easily kiss the baby on top of its head.
- Keep chin off the chest – make sure the baby’s chin is up and away from its body. The baby should never be curled so that its chin is forced onto its chest as this can restrict breathing. Regularly check the baby. Babies can be in distress without making any noise or movement.
- Supported back – the baby’s back should be supported in a natural position, with its tummy and chest against the wearer. When bending over, support the baby with one hand behind its back and bend at the knees, not at the waist.
Baby safety in the home
Newborn babies have very little protection against infection, so it is important that you provide a clean, hygienic environment. One of the most important things you can do is to make sure that anyone who handles your baby, including you, has washed their hands first.
People who have infections, for example, colds, flu or cold sores (herpes simplex), should not come in contact with your baby. Cold sores can be particularly dangerous to a newborn baby. Vaccinations are available to protect your baby against some infectious diseases. Your maternal and child health nurse can advise you.
Because babies can develop new skills quickly, adults can be caught unaware and injuries may happen. If you understand a child’s development, this will help you plan ahead for safety. Different risks appear at every stage of development and change takes place very rapidly in the early months and years.
To make sure your baby is safe at all times you should:
- Supervise young children whenever they are near the baby.
- Keep animals away from the baby. The change in the household when there is a new baby may upset some pets.
- To avoid serious scald burns, do not drink hot drinks when holding your baby.
- When you change your baby, make sure you put them down in a safe place, for example, on a change table with raised edges to prevent the baby rolling off. Remember to keep one hand on the baby at all times. Never leave your baby alone on the change table. To prevent falls, some parents choose to change the baby on the floor.