Beware of hidden dangers lurking in your home

Like most parents, I am very aware of the dangers that my children may face. It’s only natural that we want to protect them from danger, especially when accidents are one of the leading causes of death in children aged one to 16 years. However many childhood accidents and injuries happen within the home, so it’s worth taking the time to consider some of these top five common household hazards and ways to minimise their risk to your child:

By Lyndsey Thompson

1. Button batteries: These small, round batteries are found in many household objects and toys. Unfortunately they are the perfect size for children to swallow, and can lead to severe internal burns and death. If you have any suspicion that you child has swallowed a button battery go to your nearest Accident and Emergency immediately.

2. Liquitabs: With bright colours and convenient size, children can easily mistake these for sweets. These liquid capsules contain concentrated detergent, and if swallowed they can lead to airway swelling and death. Liquitabs should be stored in secure containers/locked cupboards well out of the reach of children. If you have any suspicion that you child has swallowed a liquitab, seek medical attention immediately.

3. Hair Straighteners: Up to one in 10 admissions to hospital burns units are as a result of babies/children being burnt by hair straighteners. Reaching temperatures up to 235°C, they can cause severe burns, sometimes requiring skin grafts. Prevention includes using and storing straighteners (and their leads) out of reach of children, as well as using heatproof pouches, as straighteners can remain at high temperatures for over 15 minutes after being turned off. First aid measures for burns include the three C’s:

1) Cool the area with cool/lukewarm water for 10 to 20mins. 

2) Cover with a non-fluffy dressing such as cling film

3) Call for help/seek medical attention.

4. Poisoning: Medications (such as bottles of children’s medicine that haven’t been closed properly), liquid air fresheners, and e-cigarette refills are all common causes of childhood poisoning requiring hospital admission. All medications should be stored in secure containers/cupboards, well out of the reach of children. If you are concerned your child has ingested any of these products, seek medical attention immediately. It is useful for you to bring the item with you for the list of ingredients.

5. Blinds: Blind cords injuries are a rare but severe risk to children, causing possible strangulation. Make sure that any blind cords with loops have safety devices fitted, are secured out of the reach of children, and that there is no furniture near these loops that could allow children to access them. RoSPA research shows that there have been at least 30 deaths across the UK due to looped cords since 1999. Since 2014 safety standards requires that new blinds must be “safe by design” or be supplied with the appropriate child safety devices installed. If you, or anyone who cares for your child has blinds, make them safe by ensuring a cleat, chain-break connector or cord tidy is fitted. These items are available from most British Blind and Shutter Association (BBSA)-approved suppliers and some DIY stores and are not expensive.

By making these small changes, in addition to other safety equipment such as a stairgate, you can greatly reduce the risk of injury to a child in the home.

Dr Lyndsey Thompson is a medical doctor for nine years, and has specialised in paediatrics and child health for the past six years. She has three children aged seven, five and 18 months. 

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