Despite best efforts at childproofing homes, accidents still happen and children between the 0-4 age range are most at risk. Of the different types of accidents, fires are the most fatal while falls are the most common.
Accidents tend to occur more between the late afternoon and early evening of school holidays and weekends.
Causes of accidents
- Distractions and inadequate supervision.
- Poor housing and overcrowded conditions.
- Unfamiliarity with new environments.
- Over-excitement and hyper-activeness.
- Changes to a regular routine.
- Hurried activities.
What makes children prone to accidents?
The small, growing stature of children prevents them from being seen by adults and from seeing above the many obstructions within their environment. Hence, even in the company of an adult, children can unknowingly and easily walk into danger.
Children are naturally inquisitive. However, as they go all out to discover more, they are unaware of where the line between saftey and danger is drawn.
Whether in a bid to show off or simply for the thrill of it, children often overstep their abilities by engaging in activities too dangerous for them.
Tension and emotional upsets caused by temper, jealousy etc may cause children to blindly run into danger.
The naivety of children can land them in accidents as they inaccurately interpret danger as safety.
Children are given permission to wander towards danger whenever supervising adults look away for one brief moment.
Prevention of accidents
These are the most common causes of accidents in the home.
Most falls involve tripping on the same level. The more serious types involve falling from one level to another e.g. from a bed, stair, window, balcony, high chair, rocker, etc. The worst injuries are sustained if the height of the fall is very great or the landing is hard, sharp or hot.
- Fit safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs.
- Free stairs of all tripping hazards.
- Ensure stairs are carefully maintained and well lit.
- Don’t put objects which can be climbed on, under the window.
- Furniture that can be pulled over should be secured against the wall.
Domestic fires are one of the greatest risks common to children. Hence, it won’t hurt to have a planned fire escape route within your home.
- Matches and lighters must be kept out of reach of children.
- If possible, fit in a smoke alarm and check it regularly to confirm it is working fine.
Scalds and Burns
Recovery from scalds and burns may be long and painful, leaving behind permanent scars. Hence, these accident types are best avoided.
Burns are usually suffered after contact with hot surfaces like open fires, cookers, irons, curling tongs, matches etc.
Younger children are more likely to sustain injuries from scald burns caused by hot liquids or steam. Note that the skins of these children are so sensitive that even 15 minutes after been made, a hot drink can still scald a child.
On the other hand, older children are more likely to sustain injuries from flame burns caused by direct contact with fire.
The highest number of severe scalding is caused by hot bath water.
- Don’t simultaneously hold a hot drink and a child.
- Hot drinks should be kept away from table edges.
- Young children should be kept out of the kitchen.
- Turn on the cold water first (before the hot water) when running a bath and always test the water temperature with your elbow before letting your child get in.
- When cooking, use the back end hot plates and turn handles away from the front of the cooker.
- Whether hot or cooling down, keep objects like irons, curling tongs, etc out of reach.
Glass related accidents
The increased use of glass within the home has increased the risk of glass related accidents.
- When buying furniture which incorporates glass, go for glass which has been laminated, toughened or passed the impact test.
- Add shatter resistant film to existing glass doors.
- Keep tumblers and glass bottles out of reach.
- Quickly clear up and safely dispose of broken glasses.
Children are very inquisitive and with them, nothing is off limits. Hence if care is not taken, it doesn’t take much for them to become victims of the common, everyday items (such as household cleaning solutions, medicines, cosmetics etc) which are poisonous to their bodies.
- Medicines and toxic products should be kept out of reach and sight of children.
- Medicines and toxic products should be stored in their original containers so they are not mistaken for something else.
- Read all warnings and follow label directions when giving medicine to children.
- Avoid buying plants with poisonous leaves.
- When buying toxic products, check for brands which come in child resistant containers.
- Safely dispose unused, unneeded or expired medicine and toxic products.
Suffocation and choking
Children are most at risk from choking because they tend to explore by putting everything in their mouths. They can swallow, inhale or choke on items such as small toys, peanuts and marbles.
Choking leads to suffocation which is the inability to breathe. Toddlers are likely to suffocate from choking on food or objects like small toys while infants are more at risk of suffocation while sleeping.
Plastic and nappy bags also pose risk of suffocation to infants and toddlers. Nappy bags have the tendency to be bigger risks because they are often fragranced, made of more flimsy materials and do not rustle the way plastic bags do. Hence children can dangerously play with them without parents realizing.
- Nappy and nylon bags must be kept out of reach.
- Curtain and blind cords should be kept short and out of reach.
- Keep small toys and objects out of reach of children under 3.
- Older children should keep their more mature toys away when having younger playmates over.
- Ensure infants sleep on their backs on firm surfaces.
- Avoid infants sleeping on the same bed with you. A crib or bassinet is the safest place for an infant to sleep.
- Keep soft objects like blankets, stuffed animals and loose beddings out of cribs.
- Break age appropriate food into small bite sizes.
- Encourage children to chew their food thoroughly and swallow before talking or laughing.
- Ensure children don’t eat while playing or running around.
- Choking hazard labels on toys should be read and only age appropriate toys should be given to children to play with.
- Learn how to safely remove food and small objects from the airway.
Between 16 and 36 months, the heads of toddlers still weigh proportionately more than their bodies (compared to adults) and they still have underdeveloped muscular control. This makes it hard for them to free themselves if entangled. Also their smaller, less rigid and not fully developed windpipes make them suffocate faster if their necks get constricted.
- Don’t hang drawstring bags.
- Install only cordless blinds.
- Don’t place cots, high chairs, playpens or beds under or near windows.
- Keep curtain pulls and blind cords short and out of reach.
- Don’t hang toys and objects (which are potential hazards) on the bed or cot.
When to take your child to the hospital
Immediately take your child to the hospital if he…
- Stops breathing.
- Is struggling to breathe.
- Unconscious or seems unaware of what’s going on.
- Won’t wake up.
- Has a fit for the first time (even if he recovers).
- Is losing energy.
- Has a cut that won’t stop bleeding.
- Has swallowed tablets or any toxic product.
- Is unable to use the limb.
- Has a fever.
- Has a cut that refuses to stop bleeding.
- Has a wound with gap between its edges.
- Has a cut which has a foreign bodies like a piece of glass, caught up in it.
- Has a broken bone.
- Gets electrocuted.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Royal Society for the Prevention of accidents, NHS UK. Picture courtesy: gettyimages, cirrie.buffalo.edu, nch.multimedianewsroom.tv, riskmatrix.co.uk, houzz.com, arubabag.com, reddit.com, fantasystock.deviantart.com, blog.stevensveterinary.com, jessicafhinton.com, masterfile)