Steps to take for a safer home
Simple measures can help reduce domestic accidents.
It's amazing how mobile someone who can't walk, crawl or even sit unaided can be.
With some nimble wriggling and tummy shuffling, your baby, from as young as three months, can start to explore - and get into trouble. This is the point when anxious new parents start to look around the home and see danger at every turn, from the stairs to the electrical sockets to the coffee table with its sharp corners.
Statistics do little to allay these fears. Home accidents send nearly a million children to A&E across the UK each year, half of them involving under-fives. According to the Child Accident Prevention Trust, around 41,000 under fives are rushed to casualty each year after falling down stairs; and every day one child under five is admitted to hospital with bath water scalds. Twelve young children are admitted to hospital with suspected poisoning every day, with regular painkillers usually the culprit.
The Royal Society for The Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) says the most severe injuries to children involve heat-related accidents and falls from height, including the stairs. Older children are more likely to sustain fractures, while younger children have a higher percentage of burns and scalds, as well as being the victims of poisoning and choking. Last year saw five children die after becoming entangled in blind cords, a problem on the rise with the increased popularity of blinds.
There is, of course, a wide range of products that can be used to protect little people from these household hazards, but there's no need to turn your home into a padded cell. Indeed, the experts say attempts to child proof your home are counter-productive. "You cannot child proof a house, you can only make it safer and reduce the risks," says Sheila Merrill, RoSPA's home safety manager for England. "We believe in making it as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible."
As Merrill points out, there is no substitute for supervision by an adult. With that comes education as the adult teaches the child about the inherent dangers in life and how to navigate them safely. A fixed stair gate is an intrinsic piece of kit for most homes, proven to reduce the number of falls, but by 24 months a child should be able to go up and down stairs safely by themselves.
It's important to keep perspective. "Most accidents happen in the lounge and dining room and mainly in the evening," says Merrill, "because that's where everybody goes when they get in and it's a busy time, so there may not be complete supervision. But the most serious accidents are in the kitchen and on the stairs. That's where it pays to put extra protection."
RoSPA's Safe At Home Campaign, which runs until the end of March, distributes safety information and equipment to qualifying families, including safety gates, window restrictors, non-slip bath mats, fire guard, locks for kitchen cupboards (for locking away cleaning chemicals and medications - 75pc of all poisoning accidents happen with the under fives) and corner cushions.
Amanda Tweedy, mum to a five-year-old and an almost two-year old, was nervous when the Safe At Home team visited her home. "I was worried they were going to tell me off, but they were really helpful. It was a thorough check and it gave me real peace of mind." Amanda already had some safety equipment in place, but the team made new suggestions, including a cord winder to safely store the loops on blinds, and they sourced an extendable safety gate to prevent her toddler gaining access to the kitchen. "My little girl gets into a lot of trouble. You can't have eyes in the back of your head, especially when you're cooking."
These changes don't have to be expensive, with safety locks for as little as £2 and eBay selling second-hand playpens and safety gates. Peter Boast, director of safetots.co.uk, an online one-stop-shop for all things safety related, recommends taking a look at your lifestyle to work out your needs. "Work out where you'll be spending your time and what the hazards are in that area," says Boast. "It may mean putting in extra safety equipment in the kitchen or sometimes restricting that area altogether."
And for those worried about the aesthetics, these products come in a range of colours and styles. Safetots' vast array of stair gates and extenders, for example, come in a range of finishes, from cherry wood to aluminium to mesh. And these products are only in use for a short period of time: all too soon, your little one will be stable on their feet, understand basic rules... and a new set of parenting challenges and worries will begin.
Independent News Service