Child safety - 10 things you need to know
None of us want to dwell on dire things happening to our children, but prewarned about child safety hazards is prearmed against injury or worse.
So, based on knowledge shared on the Mumsnet Talk boards and info from safety organisations, we've pulled together some need-to-know facts about child safety.
Children drown without making a sound or splashing. They sink silently while waiting for someone to come and help. It almost goes without saying, but we'll say it anyway - children should always be supervised when in swimming pools or in the sea. Very young children can drown in less than 2in (6cm) of water - a sink, toilet bowl, fountain, bucket, inflatable pool or even a rainwater-filled ditch could be fatal. And 15% of child drowning deaths in the UK occur while children are bathing - often due to being unsupervised for only the briefest of moments.
Children's skin is thinner and more sensitive than adults' and so burns more easily and at lower temperatures. A growing cause of burn injuries to children is hair straighteners, which can take up to 40 minutes to cool down completely. Child burn injuries caused by straighteners have risen sharply, but the single biggest cause of burns and scald injuries to children is from hot drinks; 180 children a day are admitted to hospitals in the UK with an injury caused by a hot drink.
3. Carbon monoxide and camping
Disposable BBQs continue to emit carbon monoxide as they cool down. This means they should only be used for cooking well away from tents and should never be brought inside a tent, even in the direst of weather conditions. This is because carbon monoxide 'sinks', so anyone sleeping in a tent is in danger as they are at floor level and tents don't offer adequate ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Furthermore, you can't rely on a carbon monoxide alarm to work in a tent as they're designed for use in buildings, not camping conditions.
4. Memory foam mattresses
Young children, particularly those aged under six months old, don't necessarily have the strength to turn and raise their heads when lying down. This means they are at a higher risk of suffocation if they are put down to sleep on anything other than a clean, firm mattress. Bedding to be avoided includes memory foam mattresses, water beds, feather beds, soft mattresses, bean-bags or bead-filled pillows and, according to the Lullaby Trust, sheepskin rugs are a risk factor as soon as your baby starts trying to roll on to their front.
"A St John Ambulance woman told me that if she had her way balloons would be outlawed until children were around 8-10. Smaller children try to blow them up, they don't have the lungs for it and the balloon suddenly pings into the mouth or back of throat and no 'upside down, back banging or Heimlich manoeuvre is ever going to shift them'. She said that the 999 emergency services operators always feel their hearts sink when someone calls up in a panic because a child has swallowed a balloon because it so often has a grim outcome." SlightlyJaded
5. Nappy sacks
According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA): "Nappy sacks, used to dispose of soiled nappies, can also pose a risk to babies and young children. We are aware of at least 12 deaths involving these items since 2001, where babies have suffocated after a nappy sack covered their mouth and nose, or have choked after putting a nappy sack in their mouth."
Just as you wouldn't leave a plastic bag around a small child, nappy sacks should be treated as a similar or even higher risk.
6. Blind cords
Since 2010, 11 children have died in the UK after being accidentally strangled by blind cords. Children particularly at risk are those aged between 16 and 36 months, when they're able to move around but unable to get themselves out of trouble easily. Toddler windpipes are smaller and less rigid than those of older children and adults, making them much more prone to accidental strangulation.
Any cord longer than 7in can become a strangulation hazard. ROSPA's advice is to fit cleats, chain or cord tidies out of the reach of children, and not to put cots, beds or highchairs near windows. It does not advise cutting cords, as this can lead to a false sense of security whereas in fact the blind cord still remains a danger.
7. Safety plugs
According to RoSPA: "Modern 13-amp power sockets made to British Standard 1363:1995 incorporate a shutter mechanism, which prevents inappropriate access to the live connectors." This makes socket covers redundant for UK three-pin plugs.
In fact, RoSPA actively discourages the use of decorated socket covers, which are attractive to young children. The greatest concern is that they can be plugged upside down, removing the shutter mechanism and turning the plug socket into an active danger to young children.
As with drowning, choking can often be completely silent, meaning carers are unaware of the problem. And even when children are older and deemed old enough to not be at risk, ice cubes and chewing gum can still be dangerous. EU safety rules strongly recommend adult supervision for any child aged under eight blowing up a balloon. Any burst balloon parts should be binned straight away as they're easily swallowed, causing children to choke.
44% of all children's accidents in the home involve falling, with some of the most serious injuries caused by falling out of a pram or highchair, or falling from a bed. So if you put your child in a highchair, strap them in every time, no matter how short a time they'll stay in it.
10. Phone chargers
This advice is aimed at the whole family - a study of phone chargers bought online found a large proportion of them fail to meet UK safety standards and are a fire risk. Leaving your phone/laptop charger in the socket with the plug switched on when you're not charging anything is also a fire risk. According to government advice, the safest option is always to switch off the socket and pull the charger out.
If you have older children who have their own phone or laptop, make sure they're also turning off and unplugging their chargers when not in use.