How child friendly is your home?
Each year 40,000 under-fives are admitted to hospital following accidents and many of these accidents happen at home and on Sundays, in the evening. You might ask why Sunday? Maybe it is because after spending the whole weekend with our young children by Sunday evening we are tired and a bit stressed. I know that when my boys were young by Sunday evening I was exhausted.
It is all too easy for busy parents who are juggling work, childcare, home and numerous other things to sometimes overlook child safety. But it is only when something happens that it stops us in our tracks and we realise just how easy it is for a child to have an accident. How many times have you ignored your child when talking on the telephone? taken your eye off them in the garden because you have had to run indoors to do something? or been so exhausted that you have slumped onto the sofa to catch your breath?
I think I was probably guilty of all of them. We are not bad parents but it is hard to supervise children twenty-four hours a day. I sometimes wonder how I survived my childhood in my two up two down terrace house in Leicester. It certainly was a far from child friendly. An outside toilet, a mangle in the middle of the kitchen and a bath in front of the fire on a sheet of asbestos – yes asbestos. In the fifties, nobody knew about the dangers it posed.
Thankfully we are more aware nowadays and with this knowledge comes a responsibility to ensure that to the best of our knowledge our houses are safe and sound. I found one of the best ways to see what might cause harm was to get down on all fours and look at the house from the eyes of a toddler. It is quite a revelation. And trust me some of those safety caps on bottles are not always that safe. Toddlers are amazingly adept at working out how to open things. Better to put anything hazardous out of reach.
Should the worst happen, know what to do. Basic first aid is not rocket science and knowing what to do if your child suffers a burn, cut or fall can make the difference between a minor incident becoming a major one and in the worst-case scenario between life and death.
A few ideas for your check list:
- Can your child reach the front door latch? If so fit a chain or bolt higher up. Check that workrooms and tools are locked up.
- Use safety glass in doors and put furniture in front of glass doors so that children cannot run into them.
- Make sure they can be opened if there is a fire
- Fit safety catches so that children cannot climb out.
- Fit safety gates at top and bottom of stairs. Better to use the kind that an adult can open easily so you don’t have to climb over.
- Check the rails in the banisters. A 4-inch gap will allow a small child to squeeze through. If so board them up until the child is older.
- Tack down all loose carpets.
- Keep the stairs clear of toys and clutter.
- The top of the cot must always be at least 1.8” (50cm) above the top of the mattress to stop the baby/ toddler climbing out
- Make sure that the space between the bars is less than 2 1/2 inches so that the baby’s head can’t get stuck. Also, ensure that the gap between the mattress and the side of the cot is no more than 1 1/2 inches (4cm) anywhere so that your baby cannot get its head trapped.
- Avoid pillows and quilts in the first 12 months as they may increase the risk of suffocation and overheating.
- Make sure that there are no bits of tapes or ties that the baby could get tangled up in or decorations that the baby can chew on.
- Remove the plastic that the mattress comes in and don’t use loose plastic to protect the mattress – use a proper fitted cot sheet.
These are not suitable for obvious reasons for children under 6. Make sure the gap between the top of the mattress and the bottom rail is between 2 ½ inches and 3 inches. If the gap is bigger the child could fall through and strangle itself on the rail.
- All medicines, cleaning materials and other chemicals should be kept in a lockable cupboard preferably out of sight and reach of the children.
- Use child resistant containers and always keep chemicals in the original bottle with proper labelling.
- Don’t leave plastic bags around as they can cause suffocation.
Look for labels not for children under 36 months. This means that the toys aren’t suitable and there may be small bits that can be detached and swallowed. Safe toys have BS5665 or EN71 on them. Also, look for the CE mark or the lion mark.
Eating and Drinking
Anything that goes into the mouth can get stuck in the windpipe.
- Babies can choke on a bottle so don’t leave a baby feeding from a bottle propped up in their cot or pushchair. By 18 months it should be safe for a child to drink unsupervised. Babies and toddlers should always have adult supervision while eating.
- Secure your baby in the high chair, as it is easy for them to fall out while your back is turned.
- Peanuts are particularly dangerous to choke on because they contain an oil which makes the lungs swell up. Don’t give them to children under 6. Always cut up small baby gem tomatoes, grapes as if eaten whole they can block the windpipe.
As many children drown in the bath as in the sea. All water is dangerous if the child cannot get out of it.
- Private swimming pools account for 20% of drowning.
- No child under 4 should be left unsupervised in the bath even for a minute. They can slip under the water and not be able to get up.
- Make sure that paddling pools are emptied when you have finished with them and don’t allow children to play in them unsupervised.
- Buckets and water containers can be very dangerous when they are filled with rainwater. Cover them up or empty them daily.
- Garden ponds and streams should be fenced off so children don’t have access to them.
- Make sure you can see children younger than 5 at all times.
- Make sure the fences are sturdy and in good repair.
- Garden chemicals and equipment should be safely stored away.
- Tree climbing should be left to children aged 7 and above.
- Garden toys should have BS 5665 on the label.
For more information on safety in the home visit www.capt.org.uk
For details of paediatric first aid courses in your area call Safe & Sound 0208 445 8998. www.safeandsound.uk.net