It is an unfortunate truth that injuries happen to children of all ages, and that many of the leading causes of childhood injuries and deaths happen in at home. But this tragic fact comes with a silver lining – most home accidents are preventable.
The kinds of accidents that older and younger children experience tend to be different, but they can happen all over the house. Kids have lots of accidents in the living room, perhaps because more time is spent there than in other rooms. These typically involve bumps and falls, or falling furniture in the worst case. The worst kinds of accidents statistically happen in the kitchen and around the stairs.
Kids are small and inexperienced with the laws of physics, and their inquisitive natures can make them oblivious to their surroundings. A lack of supervision – even just for a moment – can be all it takes for a child to be hurt, or worse. By understanding the worst causes of accidents in the home, we can prevent them from happening to our own children and work to babyproof our homes.
Burns and Scalds
Children are frequently treated in the hospital for burns and scalds of varying degrees of severity, some with more serious consequences than others. Burns and scalds can come from a range of sources, from simple and readily treatable scalds from hot shower and bathwater, to severe second and third degree burns that require hospitalization and can leave scarring. Many of these more serious accidents happen in the kitchen, where hot and boiling water abounds, or the dining room where hot food sits on the table.
To prevent burns and scalds, be sure to cook food on the back burners of the stove, where children can’t reach up and topple a pot of boiling water onto themselves. Be mindful of where you leave your mugs of hot tea and coffee. If you leave them on a coffee table, kids can knock them over, so it’s best to keep them up high, and never carry a baby while you’re cooking or holding a hot drink.
The kitchen isn’t the only place where accidents happen. Even adults are burned by curling or straightening irons that are left on – curious children are, too. Make sure to stay next to your straightener until it heats up, and unplug it as soon as you finish using it. You can even put up a baby gate in front of your bathroom until you’re finished getting ready, so you can leave your supplies out in peace.
Poisoning and Ingestion
Kids and pets alike are frequently made sick from eating something they shouldn’t have. Most of us are aware of the dangers that prescription medication and under-the-sink chemicals and cleaning products pose to children, partly due to warnings and awareness that has been raised by poison and disease control centers as well as advancements in hazard labeling standards. Installing baby locks on cabinets that store medicine and cleaning products is a good first step towards protecting kids from ingestion accidents—but don’t stop there. Cosmetics and makeup products are colorful and might be appetizing to toddlers, so be sure to keep them safely stored away in bags, or in the same locked cabinets as your medicine (and unplugged hair straighteners).
Even things that are otherwise healthy can be hazardous when consumed improperly. Children can be convinced to take nutritional vitamins when presented in child-friendly forms like gummy bears, which is a good thing, but it also means that children hunting for sweets or snacks might open the vitamin jar and eat a fistful. In this case, too much of a good thing can be toxic, so keep your vitamin candies stashed away.
Trips and Falls
The world is full of hazards for new walkers, who can trip and fall on level ground and bruise or scrape their elbows and knees. While skinned knees are a part of every childhood, more serious injuries happen when kids of all ages fall from heights. Staircases are notorious for this, whether kids tumble from the top or slip and stumble back down on the way up. Such injuries can result in broken bones or worse, but they are fortunately quite preventable – simply install baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs, and be sure that the gates themselves aren’t climbable. Check out our guide if you need help choosing the right baby gate for your home.
Be aware of tripping hazards like houseplants, books, or toys on the stairs, which can injure children as well as adults. Beds and chairs are high enough to cause serious injuries, so make sure to keep kids safe with age-appropriate cribs and strapped into high chairs.
Choking and Suffocating
Safety warning about choking hazards can be found on children’s toys as well as objects like plastic bags. Since very young children, who are at the highest risk of choking and suffocating, are not able to understand these warnings, it’s up to parents to decide what toys, objects, and foods are appropriate for their kids. Most adults know not to give very small toys like marbles to kids, and not to leave plastic bags lying about where kids can put them over their heads. But what about all of the other choking and suffocating hazards that might not seem obvious at first?
There are more than you might think at a glance, from the cords on blinds to healthy foods like grapes and cherry tomatoes. Kids’ rooms should never have blinds with cords, as kids can get tangled in them and strangle themselves. And while you’re avoiding plastic shopping bags, be mindful of any kind of drawstring bags, which pose the same risk as blinds with cords. We’ve covered some of the more ambigious dangers in the home previously in this post.
Drowning is one of the biggest preventable causes of death to young children, and the old wives’ adage is true: it can happen in less than an inch of water. This means that any source of water standing around is a hazard, from swimming pools and fishponds to buckets and tubs of water left around in a home. Always supervise children in the bathroom and near the swimming pool, at all times, even if they know how to swim. It doesn’t hurt to install a childproof gate around the pool itself to be absolutely sure.
Simply being mindful of where kids are and what they’re doing goes a long way towards protecting them from danger. It can seem frightening or overwhelming to consider the worst causes of accidents in the home, but attention, supervision, and a little education are all it takes to keep kids as safe as possible.