Accidents and injuries: Keeping your child safe in the home

A baby playing happily with colourful blocks on a fluffy rug.

Many accidents and injuries are a part of growing up as children explore and learn. But a serious accident can change the course of a child’s life forever. Thankfully many accidents are preventable by taking some simple steps.

Parents are often surprised by what their baby or toddler does next so try and think ahead. 

Under fives are at greater risk in the home and garden. Each year 40,000 under fives are admitted to hospital following accidents. Lots of these accidents are preventable.

Older children are at greater risk outside the home, on the roads as they start to make independent journeys, and at play, including in water.

Falls are the most common cause of accidental injury to children. Most falls are not serious but some can lead to death or disability. There are simple things you can do to prevent serious falls. Parents / carers are often surprised by what their child can do.

Before your child starts crawling:

  • Never leave your baby unattended even for a moment on a raised surface e.g a bed or changing table.
  • Nappy changing is best done on the floor.
  • Always place baby car seats and bouncing chairs on the floor.
  • Strap your baby into their high chair every time.
  • Keep a hand free to hold on when carrying your baby up or down the stairs.
  • Keep stairs free of clutter and discourage older children from playing on the stairs.
  • Before your baby starts to crawl, fit safety gates to stop them climbing stairs or falling down them. Close the gates properly after you go through them.

When your child starts crawling:

  • If the gaps between banisters or balcony railings are more than 6.5cm (2.5 inches) wide, cover them with boards or safety netting.
  • Be aware that babies might climb up on furniture. Keep low furniture away from windows.
  • Once a baby can sit up, remove large toys from the cot to prevent them climbing out.

When your child starts to walk they are likely to be unsteady on their feet:

  • Carry on using safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs until your infant is at least 2 years old.
  • Start to teach your child how to climb stairs but never let them go up and down on their own (even 4 year olds may need some help).
  • Don’t let children under 6 sleep in the top bunk of a bunk bed as they can easily fall out.
  • Keep low furniture away from windows. Ensure that windows are fitted with locks or safety catches so that they do not open more than 10cm (4”). Keep window keys where you can find them in case you need to escape a fire.
  • Special devices can stop doors from closing properly, preventing your child’s fingers getting trapped.
  • If furniture has sharp corners, use corner protectors to prevent your child from hurting their head.
  • Do not let young children go out onto balconies alone. Keep the door locked when not in use.
  • Supervise young children on play equipment. Make sure that it is appropriate for their developmental stage.

For more information visit the Child Accident Prevention Trust website.

Food is the most common thing for children to choke on. Babies and young children are still learning how to chew, swallow and breathe in the right order. Therefore they can easily choke on food, especially if they are not concentrating.

  • Always stay with your baby when bottle feeding. Do not prop the bottle up to feed your baby. They won't be able to push the bottle away if they choke.
  • Once your child has started on solid food, always cut it up into small pieces. Babies can choke on something as small as a grape (these should be cut lengthways) or soft like a marshmellow. Cut food into ‘thin sticks’ not ‘balls’ to prevent choking.
  • Don’t give young children hard foods such as boiled sweets or whole nuts.
  • Encourage toddlers and young children to sit still while they eat and stay with them.

Keep small objects out of your child's reach e.g. buttons, coins and small toy parts. Even small babies can grab and reach for things they shouldn't.

  • Be especially careful with small circular lithium batteries (button batteries). As well as being a choking hazard, they can cause severe internal burns if swallowed.
  • Read the age warning symbols on all toys to make sure they are suitable. Look for the Lion mark which will ensure that the toy has been made to the highest standards of safety and quality.

For more information visit the Child Accident Prevent Trust website. 

What to do if your child is choking:

  • If you can see the object, try to remove it. Don’t poke blindly or repeatedly with your fingers. You could make things worse by pushing the object further in and making it harder to remove.
  • If your child is coughing loudly, there’s no need to do anything. Encourage them to carry on coughing and don’t leave them.
  • If your child’s coughing is not effective (if they are silent or they can’t breathe in properly), shout for help immediately and give 5 back blows, followed by 5 chest thrusts. Call 999.

 

A safe sleep environment is essential. See our safe sleeping page for more information.

  • Do not use duvets or pillows for babies under 1 year old.
  • Always put babies down to sleep on their back, in the feet to foot position.
  • Do not sleep with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol, taken drugs / medication, smoke, are extremely tired, or if your baby was born before 37 weeks, or weighed less than 2.5kg (5lb 5oz) at birth.
  • Never leave a baby to sleep on a sofa or adult bed.
  • Never leave a baby unattended on a cushion or bean bag.
  • Avoid using a dummy cord or string. If you do, ensure it is shorter than 15cm / 6 inches.
  • When using a sling always follow the TICKS advice:
    • Keep your baby Tight
    • In view at all times,
    • Close enough to kiss
    • Keep their chin off their chest
    • Supported back
  • Keep nappy sacks and all plastic bags out of sight and reach from all babies and children.
  • Keep pets away from small babies and children.
  • Remove ribbons and ties from all homemade clothing.
  • Move bedroom furniture away from blind cords and chains. Fit a hook or tensioner to keep blind cords and chains safely away and always use them. New blinds should come with these.
  • Do not hang bags with cords or drawstrings on the ends of cots or beds.
  • Ensure rotary washing lines are covered when not in use.
  • Discourage children from playing with washing lines /rope/ cord (including dressing gown cords).
  • Always supervise children playing with capes / clothing which is tied around the neck and could get caught.

For more information visit the Child Accident Prevention Trust website. 

  • Medicines are the cause of over three quarters of hospital admissions for poisoning in under  fives. Common painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen are the main culprits. Child resistant measures slow children down, but they are not childproof!
  • Keep all medicines locked away or high up out of reach and sight.
  • Take extra care when visiting relatives houses as they may have medicines and other dangerous products within reach.
  • Children like to copy what you do try to take your medicine when your child is not watching.
  • Keep cleaning products high up out of reach, including those for the toilet. If this isn’t possible, fit safety catches to low cupboard doors. Make sure bottle tops and lids are on properly.
  • Do not store cleaning liquids in unmarked containers or bottles. Keep them in the container they came in to avoid confusion.
  • Small amounts of alcohol can be harmful to young children so clear up any glasses.
  • Aromatherapy oils, perfumes and cigarettes can be harmful to young children too.
  • Keep garden chemicals and other outside chemicals in a locked shed / cupboard.
  • Teach children not to eat anything they have picked outside without checking with an adult first. Poisonous berries and plants can look appealing.
  • Carbon Monoxide can creep out from flame burning appliances. You can't see, smell or taste it. Fit a carbon monoxide alarm in every room where there are flame burning appliances or open fires. Ensure appliances are serviced regularly.

If you think your child has swallowed pills or medicines:

  • Unless you’re absolutely sure your child has swallowed the mediceine / substance, spend a minute or two looking for the missing pills.
  • If you still think your child has swallowed something do not try to treat them yourself. Get medical help immediately. If they do not appear seriously ill, call NHS 111. If they are showing signs of being seriously ill, call 999 or take them straight to A&E.
  • Take the full set of tablets with you so that the doctors can check the labelling and calculate how much your child may have taken.
  • Don’t give your child salt and water or do anything else to make them sick.

For further information on poisioning prevention visit the Child Accident Prevention Trust website.

 

Most children's toys are actually very safe. Accidents involving toys usually happen when a young child plays with a toy that is meant for an older child, or when someone trips over toys that have been left out. The reminders below will give you an idea of how to help your child play safely.

Did you know... 

  • Most toys in the UK are safe if you follow the instructions. The law says all toys must have a suggested age range so they aren't given to children too young to play with them.
  • One of the main causes of toy accidents is toys with small parts. If a child is given a toy designed for an older child they can break it and end up swallowing small parts.

Which toys should I buy?

There are so many great toys on the market it can be hard to choose the right one. If you’re not sure, the tips below will help you choose something safe and fun for your child.

Toys sold by well known, reputable shops are generally safe. Online marketplaces, markets or discount shops may not be. Don’t assume that just because you can buy something it is safe.

It’s best to be careful with second hand toys. A toy library might be a safer option. They’ll lend you toys that are appropriate and in good condition.

Marks to guide you

CE.gif

A CE mark is required by law on any toy sold in the EU. It is the manufacturer’s claim that the toy complies with European safety legislation.

Lion mark.gif

A Lion Mark is a good indicator of a toy’s safety. It shows that the product has been made by a member of the British Toy and Hobby Association, to a high standard of safety and quality.

 

0-3 symbol.gif

 

Babies and toddlers put nearly everything in their mouths. This is why some toys are marked with age restrictions, in case little ones choke on small parts or loose hair. Look out for this symbol as a helpful guide. It shows toys that aren’t meant for children under 36 months.

Think about special needs too. For example, children with learning disabilities may develop in different ways to other children the same age. Use your judgement and if you’re not sure ask their parents for advice.

 

Which toys are suitable for my child?

All children develop at different speeds. But even so, it’s best to stick to the age advice on toy packaging. If a baby plays with a toy that has small parts or long fur, they might choke or swallow bits of the toy. Marbles and magnets can also be choked on or swallowed. Magnets are particularly dangerous as they can cause serious problems if swallowed. Toy manufacturers know what is safe and what isn’t so it’s best to follow their age guides.

Sharing toys teaches children good habits but be careful if older children are sharing their toys. What’s safe for a 7 year old might not be safe for a toddler.

More risky toys can still be fun, if you’re there to play with your child. Toys like baking kits, baby bath toys or chemistry sets will help your children learn, but you’ll need to be there to make sure your child doesn’t get hurt. Always follow instructions on the box.

 

How can I keep my child’s toys safe?

Keeping things tidy and encouraging your child to put toys away helps to keep your home safe. Tidying up things like balloons is especially important. Burst balloons are a choking hazard for young children.

Throwing things away can seem wasteful. However, if a toy is broken or damaged it could go on to cause accidents for other children.

Battery powered toys have usually passed rigorous safety tests. But as the batteries wear out, try to avoid mixing old and new batteries. The older batteries could overheat or leak in the toy.

Batteries in children’s toys are covered by safety regulations. They should either be enclosed by a screw and a secure compartment or need two independent or simultaneous movements to open the battery compartment. Remember that older children may still be able to open secure battery compartments.

Playing in the garden can be great fun. Minor accidents are inevitable so try not to worry too much.

Follow these simple steps to make your garden safer:

Trampolines Children love the feeling of flying through the air and jumping. Many trampolines aren’t suitable for children under the age of 6 because they can’t yet control their bouncing. Always choose a trampoline with a net. Small children are better off bouncing alone and definitely never with an adult, who could crush them if they fell. Visit the RoSPA website for advice before you buy.

Ponds 5 children die in garden ponds every year. Keep young kids safe and either fence it, grill it or fill it until they’re a bit older.

Paddling Pools Never leave children unattended and remember to empty or cover them.

Plants Some garden plants such as foxgloves seem pretty to small children but are toxic. Always read the label carefully if you’re buying new plants. If you’re unsure about the existing plants in your garden, visit a flower shop or garden centre for more advice.

Tools and chemicals Put them away after use. Things like slug pellets or plant food can be deadly if swallowed by children.

Children can drown in as little as 5cm (two inches) of water. Drowning is one of the most common causes of child death. It’s often silent, so you won’t necessarily hear any noise or struggle.

  • Baths are the most common place for babies and young children to drown. Stay with your child the whole time they're in the bath. Never leave them for a moment, even if there’s an older brother or sister in the bath with them.
  • If you use a bath seat, remember that it’s not a safety device. You still need to stay with your baby all the time.
  • Empty the bath as soon as you’ve taken your child out.
  • If you have a garden pond, fence it off, fill it in or securely cover it.
  • Put covers on any large water butts or garden bins.
  • Watch toddlers when they're in a paddling pool or playing near water. Empty the paddling pool straight after use.
  • Make sure your garden is secure so that your child can’t get into neighbouring gardens where there may be ponds or other drowning hazards.
  • As soon as they are old enough, teach them about water safety and to swim.

For more information on drowning visit the Child Accident Prevention Trust webiste.

A burn is caused by dry heat, for example an iron or fire. A scald is caused by something wet, for example hot water or steam.

A cup of tea can be the most dangerous thing in your sitting room. Any hot drink can scald a child even 20 minutes after it was made. 95% of all childhood burns and scalds happen at home. Children can climb and reach higher than you think.

Prevention:

  • Saucepans Turn handles away from the edge of the counter or cooker. Use the back rings of the cooker.
  • Kettle cords Push the cord to the back of the counter or use a short cord to keep it out of reach.
  • Hot drinks:
    • Keep hot drinks away from young children
    • Don't pass a hot drink over a child
    • Never hold a baby and a hot drink at the same time
    • Make a SafeTea zone. A safe place for hot drinks in your home, out of reach of small children
  • Hobs and hotplates can stay hot even after they are turned off. Oven doors can be hot when the oven is on. Keep children away.
  • Bottles of formula feed Ensure they are mixed well to avoid hot spots and check that the temperature of the milk is lukewarm before feeding.
  • Chip pans easily cause fires. The oil stays hot for a long time. Keep out of reach and away from children.
  • Matches, cigarette lighters and candles Keep them out of reach and sight, ideally locked away.
  • Hair straighteners and curling tongs They can still burn 8 minutes after being unplugged. Put them out of reach while they cool and make sure your child cannot grab the cord.
  • Bath time:
    • Put cold water in 1st then add hot water.
    • Dip your elbow into the water to check how it will feel for your child.
    • Stay with your child all the time when they are in the bath. Make sure they do not play with the hot tap.
    • Fit a Thermostatic mixing value (TMV) to control the water temperature.
  • Heaters and fires Always use a fireguard that encloses the whole fireplace and make sure it is attached to the wall. Do not place anything on it.
  • Sunshine Use an appropriate sunscreen and keep your baby/child in the shade where possible. Sunburn can happen in as little as 15 minutes even in the UK.
  • Fit smoke alarms on every level of your home. Test them every week and change the batteries every year.

 

What to do:

  • Get your child away from the heat source to stop the burning
  • Cool the burn for 20 minutes with cool or lukewarm running water
  • Remove clothing near burnt area. Do not move anything stuck to the skin
  • Keep your child warm
  • Cover the burn with cling film
  • Use painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • Sit upright if the face or eyes are burnt
  • Don’t put butter, toothpaste, oil or ointment on a burn or scald, as it will have to be cleaned off before the burn or scald can be treated.
  • Don't burst the blister
  • Call NHS 111 for advice

 

You should take your child to the nearest A&E department if:

  • they are under the age of 5 years old
  • large or deep burns – bigger than your child’s hand
  • burns of any size that cause white or charred skin
  • all chemical or electrical burns
  • burns on the face, hands, arms, feet, legs or genitals that cause blisters
  • has any other injuries that need treating

 

Visit the NHS website for further information. 

 

 

​Button batteries are the small, round batteries you find in a growing number of toys and everyday objects like remote controls and car key fobs. They can be extremely dangerous for children if swallowed.

button batteries
Button batteriescan be extremely dangerous if swallowed.

 

There are lots of different sizes and types of button batteries. Lithium button batteries are most dangerous as they are larger and more powerful. If they get stuck in a child’s throat, they can cause serious internal burns or even death within hours of being swallowed.

 

Why are button batteries dangerous?

Most button batteries pass through the body without a problem. But if a button battery, particularly a lithium button battery, gets stuck in the throat or gullet, energy from the battery can react with saliva to make the body create caustic soda. This is the same chemical used to unblock drains!

This can burn a hole through the throat and can lead to serious internal bleeding and death. The reaction can happen in as little as 2 hours.

Here are our top tips for keeping children safe:

  • Look round your home for lithium coin cell batteries in products as well as spare and ‘flat’ batteries.
     
  • Keep products well out of children’s reach if the battery compartment isn’t secured.
     
  • Store spare button batteries in a sealed container in a high cupboard.
     
  • Remember that ‘flat’ or ‘dead’ batteries still hold enough power to badly hurt a child. So put them out of children’s reach straight away and recycle them safely and as quickly as possible.
     
  • Take care when buying toys from markets, discount stores or temporary shops as they may not conform to safety regulations. Similarly, toys bought online or from overseas may also not meet UK safety standards.
     
  • Teach older children that button batteries are dangerous and not to play with them or give them to younger brothers and sisters.
     
  • If you think your child has swallowed a button battery, don’t delay, take them to A&E straight away or call 999 for an ambulance. Don’t let them eat or drink and don’t make them sick.

Visit the Child Accident Prevention Trust website to read more about the dangers posed by button batteries.

 

Magnets are found commonly around the house (desk toys, stress relievers, jewellery) and many children’s toys also include small magnets.

Why are magnets dangerous if eaten?

Single, small magnets will pass through the body without a problem. If more than one magnet is eaten or a magnet is eaten alongside something metal, there is a risk that part of the gut can be caught in between the magnetised objects. This can cause serious damage to the gut, including a hole in the wall of the gut.

What should I do if I think my child has swallowed magnets?

It may not be obvious your child has swallowed a magnet. If you think they may have, take them straight to A&E or phone 999. It is likely that they will require an x-ray to find out where the magnets are and how many they have swallowed. They may need an operation to remove the magnets.

Parents are often unsure as to how many magnets might have been swallowed. It is important not to assume just one has been eaten.

The good news is that children are at very little risk from electric shocks. Electrical sockets are designed to be safe.

Electricity can be dangerous in other ways. Old electrical appliances and wiring and children playing with electrical appliances can cause burns and house fires.

Electrical burns may not look serious but they can be very damaging. You should take your child to A&E if they have an electrical burn.

How can accidents with electricity be prevented?

Younger children might not know the dangers as they become curious before they know what they are playing with. Many parents might not know that their toddler is able to plug in an iron or electric fire. Parents can teach their children about the dangers as they grow up.

Keep electrical devices out of young children’s reach and away from water. For example:

  • Electrical devices such as hairdryers and mains-operated radios should be kept out of the bathroom.

Don't use electrical equipment incorrectly, or when it is damaged. For example:

  • Plug sockets should not be overloaded. Be aware not just of how many plugs are going into one socket, but also how much power they are using. Kettles and irons use more power than lamps and TVs.
  • Older electrical appliances can cause house fires. Check plugs, sockets and wires for scorching or fraying. If there’s a problem, use a registered electrician to fix them.

For more information visit the Electrical Safety First website.

Further useful links:

Child Accident Prevention Trust 

First aid information

Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) webpages on:

 


You can treat your child's very minor illnesses and injuries at home.

Some illnesses can be treated in your own home with support and advice from the services listed when required, using the recommended medicines and getting plenty of rest.

Sound advice

Children can recover from illness quickly but also can become more poorly quickly; it is important to seek further advice if a child's condition gets worse.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

All community pharmacies across England are required to be Healthy Living Pharmacies. This means that they are able to offer advice about a range of healthy living matters which includes eating a healthy diet. They can provide information leaflets and give parents/carers and young people more information about other organisations that might be able to also help them with healthy eating.

Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets. You don’t need an appointment and many have private consultation areas, so they are a good first port of call. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.

Sound advice

  1. Visit a pharmacy if your child is ill, but does not need to see a GP.
  2. Remember that if your child's condition gets worse, you should seek further medical advice immediately.
  3. Help your child to understand - watch this video with them about going to the pharmacy.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns, or to the Community Paediatricians, or the child and adolescent mental health services.

 

Contact your local Health Visiting Team:

Bradford Health Visitors or call - 01274 221223

Wakefield Health Visitors or call - 01924 310130

Craven Health Visitors or call - 01423 544265

Leeds Health Visitors or call - 0113 843 5683

Calderdale Health Visitors or call - 030 0304 5555 (local rate number)

Kirklees Health Visitors or call - 030 0304 5555 (local rate number)

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

  • Breastfeeding, weaning and healthy eating
  • Exercise, hygiene and safety
  • Your child’s growth and development
  • Emotional health and wellbeing, including postnatal depression
  • Safety in the home
  • Stopping smoking
  • Contraception and sexual health
  • Sleep and behaviour management (including temper tantrums!)
  • Toilet training
  • Minor illnesses

For more information about what Health Visitors do: What does a health visitor do?

School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5-19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and/or emotional health needs.

 

Contacting the School Nurse

Primary and secondary schools have an allocated school nurse – telephone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your named school nurse.

There is also a specialist nurse who works with families who choose to educate their children at home.

Contact your local school nursing team:

Bradford School Nurses01274 221203

Wakefield School Nurses01924 310130

Leeds School Nurses - 0113 843 5683

Calderdale School Nurses030 3330 9974 (local rate number)

Kirklees School Nurses0300 304 5555 (local rate number)

Sound Advice

Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.

They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:-

  • encouraging healthier lifestyles
  • offering immunisations
  • giving information, advice and support to children, young people and their families
  • supporting children with complex health needs

Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.

All children should be registered with a GP. Anyone in England can register for free with a GP surgery. You do not need proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number.

How to find your local GP.

Sound advice

You have a choice of service:

  1. Doctors/GPs can treat many illnesses that do not warrant a visit to A&E.
  2. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about visiting the GP or going to a walk in centre

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Please note, the online version of NHS 111 is only recommended for children over the age of five. If your child is under five years old, please phone 111.

NHS 111 can also direct you to your nearest urgent treatment centre (minor injuries unit or walk-in centre).

Find your local urgent treatment centre.

When to visit an urgent treatment centre.

Sound advice

Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as:

  • loss of consciousness
  • breathing difficulties
  • severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • major trauma such as road traffic collisions

If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  1. Many visits to A&E and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services.
  2. If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment.
  3. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about going to A&E or riding in an ambulance

This guidance has been reviewed and adapted by healthcare professionals across West Yorkshire with consent from the Hampshire development groups.