Accidents are part and parcel of growing, learning and exploring the world around us. Those bumps and scrapes that we all experienced in our formative years were lessons that helped shape our perception of what is and isn’t safe to do. Minor cuts and bruises are normal and are expected when you have a small child finding their feet, but it’s at this point that the unperceived hazards of the home really do become apparent.
Statistics show that accidents are one of the main causes of premature death in children in England and Wales, second only to cancer. Children under five are particularly at risk of death or injury at home. A report by Public Health England (PHE) found that, on average, 55 children under five die each year from injuries in and around the home in England – the equivalent of at least one death every week. There are also around 40,000 emergency hospital admissions and 450,000 visits to A&E for injuries to under-fives recorded in England every year.
There are so many hidden dangers around the home that can cause injuries to children. Most are preventable, as long as families are aware of the hazards presented by seemingly innocuous household items and act to reduce the risks.
This week (7th – 13th June) the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) is campaigning for greater awareness of the risks posed to children in the home through their annual ‘Child Safety Week’ event. Throughout the week, the charity is promoting the theme ‘Share because you care’ – encouraging people to share safety advice with families and friends to help protect children in the home and prevent serious accidents.
The most common types of accidents relate to falls from height, choking on small objects or foods, burns and scalds from fire or boiling water, poisoning due to ingestion of toxic substances, and drowning in baths, pools or ponds. Many of these can be extremely serious and can lead to death or debilitating life-long physical and mental disabilities.
The inquisitiveness of a child knows no bounds and it can be quite surprising to see just how determined and creative they can be in order to reach a shiny packet of pills, a mug of hot coffee, or an open window. Small children have not yet developed the concept of what constitutes risk and think nothing of plunging their hand into boiling water if accessible to them. Ensuring that all potentially hazardous items are securely stored away from wandering little hands is therefore the first priority. Sharp objects, matches, cleaning products, kettles, batteries, medication and alcohol can all result in life-changing injuries to a child.
Effective supervision is also essential to ensuring a child’s safety. Children are naturally curious so any distraction or lapse in their carer’s concentration is a potential opportunity for them to slip away from their guardian and run into danger.
Children being cared for by people under the influence of drugs or alcohol are at an even higher risk of injury as the carer’s concentration, judgement and reaction time is often impaired. The effect of these substances can cause the carer to be less aware of their surroundings and therefore less aware of risks, make them sleepy and unable to properly supervise the children in their care, and also affect their co-ordination and balance, which could result in harm to their children as well as themselves.
It is impossible for parents to have eyes on their child every second of every day and, even if they do, accidents can still happen. The key is to ensure that parents are educated to recognise the sources of risk and do what they can to mitigate or negate these wherever possible.
For more information on CAPT and Child Safety Week, visit www.capt.org.uk.
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