As a parent, we usually worry about our child falling sick or getting an infection. We are worried about whether he or she is getting a cold. We worry about maintaining hygiene so that he or she does not get upset diarrhea or worms. Whether our child is eating enough lest he/she gets malnourished. That’s quite relatable, isn’t it? But do you worry about how to keep your child safe and prevent injury? Are you looking for some safety tips for kids?
If yes, then that’s great! You may be thinking that injuries are part of childhood. But I am not talking about minor injuries here. I am talking about major life-threatening injuries. Many of us are so preoccupied with the worries of our child falling sick, or eating less that we somehow do not prioritize preventing injuries in children. Even if we do, we probably are not taking steps in that regard.
In this post, I will take you through why prevention of injury is important in children, and what steps you as a parent can take to prevent injuries and keep your children safe. Whatever may be the age of your child, he or she is at risk of injury. Read on to find life-saving safety tips for kids and what you can do to keep your child safe from injuries.
Why is it important to prevent injuries in children?
- In many high-income countries and some low-income countries, injuries are the commonest cause of child death despite having a higher awareness of child safety.
- In many low and middle-income countries, there is hardly any awareness of child safety. Is it because child injury is less common in these countries? No.
- Other diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea are more common, so we don’t give proper attention to injuries.
- Compared to developed countries, there are probably many children who become victims of preventable injury in low and middle-income countries.
- In terms of statistics, they are buried under a higher number of infectious diseases.
So, whether you are from a developed country or a developing one, you should take equal care to keep your children safe. It is best to take steps to avoid preventable injury.
Children of what age are at risk of serious injuries?
If you have a newborn baby you might think that your baby cannot even move and so he/she is not at risk of any accidents or injuries. If you have a 15-year-old, you may think that he/she is grown-up enough to take care of himself/herself. The truth is that children of all age groups, newborns through adolescents, are at risk of a preventable injury. As parents, we can always do something to keep them safe.
However, with the changing age group, the pattern of injuries and accidents are different and you as a parent have to take care differently based on how old your child is. Before we go to the safety tips for kids, let us have look at the age-wise common injuries that you are likely to come across.
- 0-6 months: Younger babies are at risk of sleep accidents, sudden infant deaths, Scalds, Smoke injury, etc.
- 6months-1 year: Babies learn to crawl or are made to walk on a walker. They are at risk of Walker related injuries, fall, electrical injury, chocking and scalds.
- Toddlers: They have a natural exploratory behavior and are therefore at a greater risk of burns, drowning, falling, and poisoning. The risk of choking also persists.
- Young school-age children: School-going children have a risk of pedestrian injury, bicycle-related injury, motor vehicle occupant injury, burns, and drowning.
- Adolescent: Adolescents are at risk of motor vehicle occupant trauma, continued risk of burning and drowning, intentional trauma or poisoning, work-related injuries.
The truth is that children of all age groups, newborns through adolescents, are at risk of preventable injury. As parents, we can always do something to keep them safe.
What makes children vulnerable to injuries?
- Injuries in children occur usually in a window of vulnerability.
- Toddlers are naturally inquisitive and do not have the judgment to know that certain medications and household chemicals may be poisonous.
- Some household tools or equipment may also cause injury as they try to explore it.
- An older child or an adolescent may encounter a task or hazard that they do not have adequate skills for.
- Adolescents, in particular, may have higher risk-taking behavior and may overestimate their skill level.
Is my child at risk of injury?
Many people usually think that getting injured and meeting with accidents are innate characteristics and it differs from child to child.
So, do you need to worry? Is your child accident-prone?
Most experts do not believe the concept of ‘injury-prone child’ and you can consider it a myth. Studies show a relation between hyperactivity, impulsivity, and increased injury rate. But this link is very weak.
So, coming back to the question, yes your child is at risk of injury even if he/she is a quiet & calm child. You must take appropriate precautions for your child’s age.
Safety tips for kids: What can I do to keep my child safe from injuries?
Keeping a child safe from injuries is no rocket science and one piece of advice does not fit all. What you need to do differs according to the age of your child and the environment of your home, play area setting, etc. So, your approach must be heavily individualized in nature. However, the principles are more or less the same for all children in a particular age group. The triad of injury prevention in children consists of 3 Es- education, engineering, and enforcement.
It is the cornerstone of injury prevention strategies. This includes efforts to persuade parents to change their behavior. If you are reading this blog then you are seeking education on the subject and it is a great start.
2. Engineering or product changes:
This includes making the product less prone to inflict injury. This is by far the most productive strategy. But you would adopt these changes only when you are educated about them and are motivated to adopt these changes. Adopting a product that is engineered to be child-safe has an advantage. It will show its effect regardless of the co-operation from other family members and their skill level.
Through awareness and education should lead to the adoption of most practices, that does not always happen. Therefore there are government agencies enforcing child safety codes.
If you are not getting the jargon, that’s fine. Simply put, preventing child injury needs three basic elements: a) Your awareness of preventable injuries. b) Your commitment to work on it and c) Lots of common sense. Of course, government regulations are supporting you to keep your children safe.
However, as I have said earlier, general, well-meant advice will not work. Let me walk you through certain actionable steps as per the age group of the child that you can easily implement and make a difference. Read on. It’s useful information. Skip to the corresponding part below if you are interested in reading only about your child’s age group.
Safety tips to prevent injury in young infants (0-12 months)
1. Care while sharing the bed:
Young babies are at risk of sleep accidents. If you are sharing a bed with your baby you should be able to wake up with the slightest stimuli. If you are extremely exhausted or drunk then avoid sharing the bed with your baby.
2. Never make baby sleep on the tummy:
Always make your young infant sleep on the back; never on the chest. Sleeping on the chest increases the chances of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In addition, use a firm mattress and avoid fluffy cloths around the baby.
3. Motor vehicle rides safety:
You should use an infant-only or rare-facing convertible car seat placed at the back seat of the car. Use proper restraint with the car seat.
4. Check the temperature of bathwater:
You should always check the temperature of the bathwater with the back of your hand. However, there may be a human error on anyone’s part leading to unintentional scald. Turning down the water heater temperature will help prevent unintentional scalds during a bath.
5. Install smoke detectors:
Babies especially newborns are at risk of suffocation by accidental smoke. Installation of smoke detectors will eliminate this risk.
How to Prevent Injury in toddlers and preschoolers
Here are our safety tips for toddlers and preschoolers
1. Prevent Fall:
Older infants are at a higher risk of fall-related injury. They may fall from the bed, on the staircase, or from an unsafe balcony. You should start thinking about these potential fall-related injury-prone areas in your house and take preventive measures way ahead of time. You may want to protect the entry and exit to your staircase with a baby gate. Check if your balcony and terrace railing is of adequate height or your baby can climb over it and fall. Children can climb up if you have horizontal bars or any design elements that lets them set their foot on the railing. Mind you, toddlers are little monkeys and they can climb anywhere. Start thinking about baby-proofing your home when your baby is less than 6 months old. Don’t wait for the first fall-related injury to prompt you to take steps.
2. Keep medicines and chemicals out of reach:
Medicines, household cleaning chemicals, insecticides, kerosene, etc. are all potential poisoning agents. Keep them out of reach of your child. You may also use child-safe containers for storage if appropriate.
3. Keep any small objects and plastic bags out of reach:
Anything smaller than 3 cm in size is a potential choking hazard for your baby. Avoid toys with small parts, breakable parts, and brittle surfaces that can give rise to small broken parts. If your child has a teddy bear check for its eyes or nose which are made of buttons and as such has a high risk of choking. It is best if you buy stuffed toys or other toys which do not have small parts and are securely placed. The wheel or any other small part of a toy car or a design element of the baby’s dress (like beads, buttons, etc) that can get detached also pose a risk. Decorative pebbles, coins, pen caps, nuts, peanuts, etc all are potential choke hazards.
Do not let children play with plastic bags as they are a suffocation hazard too.
4. Keep electrical points inaccessible:
Toddlers would try and put their fingers or anything else they get into the sockets. Keep sockets in a house out of reach if you have toddlers. All electrical sockets should have safety shutters (child-safe sockets). If your plug points or sockets are within the reach of your child and don’t have shutters you can also use an electrical socket cover which is easily available online from Amazon or other online stores.
5. Place a car seat in the back seat:
A forward-facing harness seat or a belt-positioning booster seat placed in the back seat of the vehicle is ideal. Keeping children in the back seat significantly decreases the chances of getting seriously hurt. Keep your child-lock in your car on. Mind windows safety.
6. Supervise intently around water bodies:
Toddlers are naturally curious about water. The hazards at home include a swimming pool, ponds, bathtubs, and even a large bucket of water. Your neighborhood irrigation ditches, watering holes, or water drainages may also pose risks. Your child may be at risk during a recreational visit to water bodies like lakes, riversides, ponds in a park, etc. You need to keep your kid under constant adult supervision.
When I say constant supervision, I mean absolute constant supervision: No alcohol. No socializing. Focus entirely on watching the child. Drowning is a major cause of injury-related child death. These accidents may need just a few seconds of a lapse in your supervision, which is possible despite your best efforts. Therefore, you need layers of water protection strategies in addition to constant adult supervision are required.
- Keep your bathroom or other water storage area out of access for kids
- Install a pool fence with a self-latching gate
- Learn swimming, water survival skills, and CPR
- Avoid bathtubs, use a shower instead.
- Identify hazardous water bodies in the neighborhood and prevent your kids’ access to them (use Barriers).
For more details, you may read our article about why childproofing your home is important and how to do it.
How to Prevent Injury in the school child
Here are some safety tips for your school-aged kid.
1. Water skill training:
Children till adolescence are at risk of drowning. Therefore, School going children should receive training on Dos and Don’ts around water. You should also teach him/her to swim. However, remember that swimming lessons are not a replacement for supervision. It is just another added layer of safety.
2. Pedestrian skill training:
Few children younger than 9-10 years will have the developmental skill to successfully negotiate traffic every single time. Moreover, children have a poor ability to judge distance and speed. They also get distracted very quickly by anything in the environment. Though it is important to teach your child the basics of how to cross a street, it is safe not to let him/her cross the street unsupervised even if he/she is apparently able to do so.
If you do not have a play area adjacent to your house or your house is overcrowded then your child could be at risk. Children in such a situation tend to go out to the street to play. Keep your gate latched at all times in such a way that kids can’t open it.
3. Booster seats and seat belts:
Children should occupy the back seat as these are much safer. Experts recommend forward-facing belt-positioning seat boosters placed in the back seats. The rear seat for children in the car is clearly much safer than the front seat. Children sitting in the back seat have about 70% lower risk of injury in a crash compared to those sitting in the front seat.
How to Prevent Injury in adolescents
1. Enforce Seat Belt Use:
You must teach your adolescent kid to use seatbelts and enforce them consistently. Be a role model by practicing yourself every time.
2. Avoid Alcohol:
Keep adolescents away from alcohol. They are at a higher risk of injury, especially when they consume alcohol while driving or swimming.
3. No Mobile While Driving:
Mobile Phones are killing machines when used during driving. So, teach your kids to avoid using mobiles at all costs while driving.
4. Store your Firearm Safe:
If you have a firearm in your house, store it safely and out of reach of your kid. They are at risk of unintentional and intentional injuries from a firearm.
5. Be a friend to your Child:
Adolescence is a tough period for both kids and parents alike. They are rebellious and are going through a lot of psychological stuff like peer pressure. If you are not a friend to them they are unlikely to listen to you and follow any of the above points. Also, adolescents are at risk of self-harm and suicide. Being a friend to them will give you insight into their psychological state. You can be with them and hear them out. That will take care of most issues. If there is any major issue, take professional help.
Are you here with me at the end of this long article? Then you are already committed to the cause. Child safety and prevention of injuries is a priority area for you as a parent. We will be coming with more resources in this area. Leave us your feedback and suggestion in the comments. If you like our article, please don’t forget to share. If you want to read more here is some great resource.