In the words of John F. Kennedy, “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” Parents already know this to be true and would move mountains to keep their children safe from harm. But in today’s volatile world, shielding your kids from every possible risk seems an impossible task.
From home fires to toxic substances in and around the home, the risk of drowning, injuries, illness, and child predators, danger lurks around every corner for today’s young generation. While the statistics surrounding safety risks for children are alarming, the news isn’t all bad: Parents are not helpless. In fact, there are hundreds of safety measures you can implement in your home to protect your children from injuries and other safety hazards.
While it’s not realistic to think that you can shield your kids from every possible risk – the occasional skinned knee is inevitable, and some things are simply out of your control – you do have the power to dramatically lower the risk of injury, illness, and other dangers lurking in and around your home. We’ve created this guide to show you how. Read on to learn more about:
- Child Safety Statistics
- The State of Child Safety in the Home
- The Most Dangerous Rooms in Your Home
- Dangerous Rooms for Kids (Infographic)
- The Most Common Injuries (and How to Prevent Them)
- Unusual Ways Kids Get Hurt
- What to Do in Case of an Accident
- Child Accident and Injury Prevention Resources
“We live in a world designed by adults, for the convenience of adults, and the safety of children is often not considered.”
- Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio
Dr. Smith’s take on child safety might sound harsh, but it is hard to argue with when you consider some of the stats on child safety in the home:
- Over 4 million children experience an accidental household injury each year, and 2,300 children under the age of 15 will die from their injuries.
- 18,000 Americans die from household injuries each year.
- A study found that between 1999 and 2008, 932,000 children under the age of 5 were hospitalized after being injured on the staircase.
- 26 children die from appliance tip-over accidents each year.
- In 2013, 22,041 children were seen in emergency departments for non-fatal suffocation or inhalation injuries.
Research from the World Health Organization (WHO) found that injuries make up a large portion of child deaths.
The statistics make for scary reading. In the home, danger really does lurk around every corner. Without wanting to scaremonger, parents can never be too careful.
It might be a surprise to some to learn that accidents, not disease, are the leading cause of childhood deaths. 9,000 American children die each year from accidents and nearly half of all accidents happen at home. Other findings from the CDC study include:
- An average of two children die each day from poisoning.
- An average of two children drown each day.
- The accidental death rate is almost twice as high for males as it is for females.
- The leading cause of death for children under the age of one is suffocation.
- Drowning is the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 4.
- The leading cause of non-fatal childhood injury are falls.
Child safety in the home is also an evolving challenge. Laundry packets, for instance, are a relatively new product which some children might mistake for candy, and, in 2015 alone, 34 children were involved in accidents involving laundry packets each day. However, 52% of parents do not store their laundry packets outside their children’s reach. The fact that 3 in 5 parents base their child safety procedures on what their parents taught them might also be cause for alarm. Child safety in the home is not a closed book – new technologies, gadgets, and appliances are entering the marketplace, reshaping the way our homes are designed. Parents need to make sure they are moving with the times and taking the correct safety precautions with each new product they bring into their home.
Flat screen TVs are another item that have made a fairly recent entry into the American home. Since their release in the late 1990s, they have come to dominate the market, bringing with them a child safety risk many might find surprising. Between 1990 and 2011, the number of children who were injured by a falling TV grew by 125%. In total, over 17,000 children were treated each year for injuries caused by falling televisions. 215 children died as a result of their injuries during this period.
One theory is that the top-heavy design of flat screen TVs makes them easier to tip over. Another reason for the surge in TV-related accidents might be that the newer flat screen TVs are often placed on desks and stands that are not suitable. Once again, it was left to Dr. Gary Smith to comment. Smith, who has become the leading researcher in childhood accident injury prevention, pointed out that “A child’s dying once every three weeks from a TV tip-over. The numbers are going up. This is a call to action. These are 100 percent preventable injuries.” While the injuries are certainly preventable, not all parents have taken the necessary precautions. Research shows that 43% of parents do not secure their appliances, furniture, or televisions to the wall.
As we have seen, there is an average of two children dying each day because of poisoning. Yet, 43% of parents still keep cleaning solutions and other chemicals in unlocked cabinets, and many times, these cabinets are within easy reach for children. To make matters worse, 36% of parents admit to having purchased a lock for their cabinets but had never installed it.
Perhaps the most damning statistic about child safety in the home is the fact that 61% of parents are not worried about their children getting injured in the home. In the U.S. today, the state of child safety at home is not ideal, with statistics showing that many children suffer from preventable accidents and injuries. The figures around deaths and injuries in the home are alarming, but, too many parents take a cavalier approach and assume the worst can’t – or won’t – happen to them. When it comes to child safety in the home, you can never be too careful. As dramatic as it sounds, it can be a matter of life and death. Taking the time to lock away cleaning products and secure your appliances to the wall is a non-negotiable.
While the statistics we have covered make for stark reading, the good news is that there is a growing awareness among American parents that more care needs to be taken on child safety at home. A Nationwide survey found that 88% of Americans agree that parents need to do a better job of keeping children safe at home. Awareness and acceptance of the child safety issue in American homes is the first step to solving the issue.
It is not just parents who need to take on the responsibility of tackling the child safety problem. Safer products and more robust regulatory standards can help to create a home environment less susceptible to accidents. While there are still way too many preventable accidents and deaths today, the per-capita child death rate was actually 43% higher in the 1980s than it was today. The launch of a number of public health campaigns around this time helped to bring about a range of regulatory changes that really improved child safety. Since then, safety measures like smoke alarms, infant car seats, bicycle helmets, stair gates, pool fences, childproof lids, and choke hazard warnings have become commonplace.
The best summation of child safety in the home in 2017 is to say that, while progress has been made, there is still much to do. Awareness is the first step to solving the problem. Parents must acknowledge that child safety in the home is an issue that needs to be addressed on an continual basis and, with the help of regulators and manufacturers, they can make the home a safer place for their children.
There are conflicting reports about which room in the house is the most hazardous, where most in-home accidents happen. Many believe that the kitchen is the most dangerous room in the house and statistics from the US Fire Administration, which show that 30% of all house fires start in the kitchen, would support that view. The Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Complete Home Medical Guide also found that the kitchen was the source of most domestic accidents.
A study in the UK found that the highest number of accidents happen in the living room but that the most serious incidents occur in the kitchen and on the stairs. Neither should you discount the potential for accidents to occur in the bathroom, as there are over 235,000 visits to the emergency room for people over the age of 15 for bathroom-related injuries each year. One thing is abundantly clear: there is the potential for danger in every room in the house.
With knives, cleaning chemicals, microwaves, kettles, and hot ovens, the kitchen is very obviously fraught with danger. Fires are a major worry in the kitchen, as are burns, with studies showing there is an average of 5 emergency department visits every hour for stove-related injuries. Cleaning products, as we have already stated, also need to be kept out of the reach of children – something that can certainly be improved on in many houses with research showing only 59% of parents lock cleaning products away from their kids.
The stairs are another childhood hazard. Close to 100,000 children a year are taken to hospital with stairs-related injuries. In other words, every six minutes a child is injured on the stairs. The sad reality is that the vast majority of staircases are not designed with the safety of the child in mind. Furthermore, two thirds of homes in America cannot accommodate a wall-mounted stair gate at the top of the stairs. Children 12 months of age or younger are in the highest risk category for staircase injuries, accounting for 32% of the total. To make matters worse, 25% of children 12 months old or younger experienced a stairs-related injury while under adult supervision.
Furniture and TV tip-overs in the living room are the main living room hazards to consider. A Safe Kids Worldwide study found that 42% of parents have witnessed their children climbing on bureaus, dressers, and other pieces of furniture. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found that 18,900 children age 9 and under are seen in emergency departments annually for injuries caused by furniture and appliance tip-overs. Parents are advised to secure their furniture and TVs to the wall to avoid these accidents. Worryingly, 48% of parents admit that they haven’t secured their furniture or televisions to keep them from tipping over.
Parents also need to be aware of the potential for battery injuries like poisoning, or in the case of button batteries, choking on or swallowing batteries. From 1997-2010, there were 40,400 hospital visits by children age 12 and under for battery-related injuries. The guidance offered by experts in the area is to keep remote controls, which often contain small batteries stored in easy-to-open compartments, far out of your children’s reach.
The bathroom is an underrated risk area. Dangers include slips and falls, drowning, burns, electric shocks, and exposure to hazardous chemicals. It might surprise some parents to learn that drowning is the leading cause of death arising from an unintentional injury among children aged 1-4, with 24% of deaths being bathtub-related. There is massive scope for parents here to take better care in their supervision to bring this rate down. A study found that 31% of parents admitted to leaving a child under the age of five unsupervised in the bathtub for five minutes or longer. In addition, parents must keep medicines and any cleaning products left in the bathroom out of reach of their children or safely locked away.
There are a number of bedroom safety hazards to consider including tippable furniture, radiators and heaters, toys, and windows. In 2013 alone, 1,268 children under the age of 19 died from suffocation or strangulation and 819 infants under one year old died from suffocation or strangulation in bed – often arising as a result of unsafe sleeping arrangements. One best practice here is that babies should sleep alone in their crib with all objects removed. Tragically, however, not all parents follow this guideline with 73% of parents admitting to placing other objects like toys and blankets into the crib with their infant. Windows guards should also be used to ensure children don’t fall out from their bedrooms.
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Accidents can happen in even the most safety-conscious homes. To help you lower the chances of an accident in your home, we have put together a list of the most common injuries that occur at home and how to prevent them.
Furniture and Appliance Tip Over
Research from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found that 21,700 children are injured every year in tip-over incidents. 56% of these injuries were caused by falling furniture, 41% involved falling televisions, and 4% were caused by falling appliances. Between 2000-2013, there were 430 fatalities from tip-over injuries. The types of injuries include contusions, fractures, lacerations, and internal organ injuries. To help prevent these accidents, there are a number of best practices to follow:
- Ensure that the furniture meets the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) safety standards. Some manufacturers choose not to follow these standards, so the onus is on the consumer to buy from those who do.
- Anchor furniture and appliances to the wall. Anti-tipping restraint kits and anti-tip brackets will do the trick here and they are not too expensive.
- Place your TV on a stand designed to hold it, and strap it to the wall if possible.
The WHO found that 47,000 children and teenagers die from falls each year worldwide. That works out to 129 deaths per day. Non-fatal falls are also the most common reason for children to be taken to the emergency room.
To prevent falls around the home, you should take the following precautions:
- Install window stops to prevent your windows opening for more than 4 inches to eliminate any chance of your child falling out.
- Install safety gates at the top and the bottom of the stairs.
- Install safety rails on your beds.
- Put bumpers and guards on furniture with sharp corners to protect toddlers and younger children in the event that they do fall.
- Keep floors dry and use non-slip bath mats.
Unfortunately, many young children get into the habit of placing objects in their mouth, which opens up the risk of choking. Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics found that, on average, a child dies every five days from choking in the U.S. Hot dogs were found to be the most high-risk food as their shape can easily block a child’s airways.
To help prevent choking injuries, you should take the following steps:
- Take extreme care with – and maybe even eliminate – high-risk foods like grapes, hot dogs, nuts, and popcorn from your child’s diet.
- Keep coins and small objects away from children.
- Take the time to read warning labels on toys.
- Take a first aid and CPR course so you know how to help your child in the case of an emergency.
- Do not let children play while they are eating.
800,000 American children visit the emergency room each year because of accidental poisoning and, according to the CPSC, 30 will die from their injuries. The majority of these incidents involve the accidental consumption of medicines and cleaning products that are extremely dangerous for children. Other causes include accidental overdose of over-the-counter medicine and CO (carbon monoxide) exposure.
You should take the following steps to minimize the risk of poisoning and protect your children:
- Lock medicines and cleaning products away from your children.
- Carefully follow the directions on any medicine you are giving to your children.
- Dispose of old medicine that you no longer need.
- Save 1-800-222-1222, the nationwide poison control center phone number, in your phone’s address book. If you think that your child might have been poisoned, call the number immediately.
- Never put potentially hazardous cleaning products into anything other than their original packaging or container.
Around the world some 480 children die from drowning every day and it is the leading cause of injury-related death in the home for children between the ages of 1 and 4. One of the most worrying facts about drowning is that children can drown in just a few inches of water in a very short time (just minutes).
There are a number of water safety measures – including pool safety products and equipment – you can implement to prevent your child from drowning.
- Never leave a baby alone in the bath.
- Never leave a bathtub or sink full of water. If you are finished bathing your child, you should immediately unplug and empty the container.
- Keep your bathroom door locked so your child can not wander in unattended.
- If you have a home swimming pool, you should consider fencing it so your child doesn’t fall in accidentally. (In fact, local regulations or HOA rules may require it.)
There are more than 95,000 deaths worldwide from burns each year. CDC research shows that in American homes in 2013, 263 children aged 12 and under died from fires and burns. Many burn injuries arise from hot drink spillages. Other hazards include stoves, ovens, open fires, hair straighteners, and matches.
To protect your children against burns and fires, you should take the following steps:
- Put smoke alarms in every room and check them every month to make sure the batteries are working.
- Develop a fire escape plan for you and your family in the event of a fire in your home.
- Clean your chimney annually.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in your home in an easily accessible area. If your home is large, you may need more than one, placed in high-risk areas.
- Keep matches locked away from your children.
- Don’t leave candles unattended.
- Keep children away from stoves while they are in use.
- Turn the handles of hot pots and pans in towards the wall to minimize the chances of them tipping over.
For even the most safety-conscious of parents, it is not possible to supervise children 100% of the time. Parents do need to understand the type of situations where injuries and accidents might arise from. So far in our guide we have covered a lot of the most common accidents in the home and how they arise. Parents, however, must also be aware of those unusual ways kids manage to injure themselves that may not be immediately obvious.
Most young children really enjoy playing on bouncy castles and, most of the time, it is a really great way for them to expend some energy and play with their friends. However, the number of bouncy-castle-related injuries continues to soar. A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that the over 64,000 children were treated for injuries sustained on a bouncy castle between 1990-2010 – with the rate of injuries doubling between 2008-2010. Children under 5 sustained the most injuries. The types of injuries include fractures and sprains.
Parents should try and adhere to the following bouncy castle guidelines:
- Only let children over the age of 5 use the bouncy castle.
- Make sure there is a responsible supervisor present at all times.
- Have a plan for immediate evacuation in the event that the bouncer starts to lose air.
- Ensure that only children of similar size and weight use the bouncy castle at the same time.
- No rough play.
Car Seat Dermatitis
Dermatitis linked to car seats is a relatively new issue. Car seat dermatitis can occur when a baby’s skin comes into contact with certain types of car seats composed of nylon-like material. Thankfully, the dermatitis can ease off if parents put a barrier between the infant’s skin and the car seat or if they change the car seat material.
Hair-thread Tourniquet Syndrome
Hair-thread Tourniquet Syndrome is defined as “swelling or ischemia of an appendage (e.g., toe, finger, or genitalia) caused by a tightly wound hair or thread in a young infant”. If a strand of hair – often invisible to the parent – were to get caught around an infant’s delicate digits, it can cut off the circulation to that area. Sometimes the issue can be treated with hair removal cream while other more invasive measures include incision and blunt probe cutting.
Slides are eternally popular with children. Whether on the playground, at the water park, or in the backyard, slides can provide your child with a lot of enjoyment. However, there is an element of danger attached that might seem counter-intuitive to some parents. A trend has developed where parents will go down the slide with their toddler on their lap which can actually increase the chance of injury. The danger is that the child’s leg can get caught underneath the parent and get injured under the extra momentum generated by the adult’s weight.
Unfortunately, there will always be a chance that children will injure themselves somewhere along the way. In the case that you do find yourself in a situation where your child has had an accident in the home, there are a number of best practices to keep in mind.
Unfortunately for parents, many young children like to explore the world around them by putting objects into their mouths. Prevention is the best strategy here of course but you should set aside the time to take a CPR course so you have the skills you need to stop your child from choking. One thing to remember here is to be careful about reaching into your child’s mouth to try to retrieve the object because it might only get lodged even further. Call 911 as quickly as you can or if you are performing the Heimlich maneuver, try and get somebody else to call for you.
In the event that your child gets burned, there are a number of steps to follow. The first thing you should do is check on the severity of the burn. There are three types of burns:
- First degree burns: Only the outer skin is affected. The child’s skin will be red but will not have blisters.
- Second degree burns: Child’s skin will be red and blistered.
- Third degree burns: All layers of the skin are affected. The child’s skin will be white or charred in appearance and the skin may be numb.
You need to separate your child from the source of the burn as quickly as possible. If any part of your child or their clothes are on fire, you should wrap a blanket around the affected area to put out the fire. In the case of a burn caused by a chemical substance, you should rinse the affected area with water and remove any contaminated clothes. Do not pour water on powder burns; instead, remove with a brush. In the event of an electrical burn, you should unplug the appliance.
First degree burns can be treated at home. Run cool water over the affected area for a few minutes to lower the temperature of the skin. Aloe Vera gel can then be applied to ease the pain. In the case of serious second- or third-degree burns, you should call 911 immediately. Gently pat any affected areas with a sterile cloth while you wait for medical help. Home remedies like ice and butter should be avoided for these more-severe burns.
If your child experiences a fall, you should examine them thoroughly to make sure there are no broken bones and they haven’t suffered a concussion in the event of a head injury. If the child seems okay, you should keep a close eye on them for the next 24-48 hours just to be sure. If the injury seems serious, you shouldn’t hesitate to call for a doctor or dial 911 immediately. One really common fall injury you can treat yourself is a simple bump on the head. The best course of action here is to apply an ice pack to the bump to bring down the swelling.
If you want to learn more about child safety at home, check out the following resources:
- Child Safety: Keeping Your Home Safe for Your Baby
- Basic home safety: A checklist
- How to Baby Proof Your Home
- Child Safety at Home: A Complete Guide
- Top 10 Home Safety Tips for Kids
- Child safety checklist
- Home Safe Home: Childproof Your Home Room by Room
- Protect the Ones You Love: Child Injuries are Preventable
- Child Safety Tips For Parents
- 10 General Safety Rules You Should Teach Your Children
- Keeping Kids Safe
- How to Childproof Your Home: Safety Strategies for Minimizing the Risks