A toddler in Plymouth has died after being caught in a window blind, his mother found him hanging from his bedroom blind one evening and tragically he was dead. The 21 month old child had been left just for a few minutes so his mother could prepare him some milk before bed, however, in that short time, he had managed to wind the cord round his neck. He managed to reach the blind by climbing on a chest of drawers.
The Royal Society For The Prevention of Accidents (RSPOA) has stated that since 1999 at least fifteen toddlers have been strangled by blind and curtain cords - which is a staggering and dreadful figure. They have said that the cords are a real hazard that people just don't think about. Toddlers of about 2 years are at most risk because their heads are big and get caught, they are adventurous and want to climb and explore, they don't understand the dangers and they are more susceptible to suffocation because their windpipes have not fully developed.
There are new British Standards which will help supplies sell blinds that are safe for consumers to use, however there are many thousands of homes which will contain blind and curtains that do not comply with the standards.
Here are a few simple measures to make your existing blinds as safe as possible:
- Keep all looped cords out of reach (including if you stand on a chest or bed to reach them!)
- Keep cots and beds away from blinds
- Use a cleat or hook to wind up any loose cord
- Secure the cord to the wall
- Use a chain breaker which will break if pressure is applied.
When buying new blinds try and opt for blinds with hidden cords, cords that don't form a loop, or those operated by wand that you wind or with gears.
We have to be so careful raising babies and toddlers in our homes - so much of what seems safe to adults can pose potential hazards to children. A hazard isn't necessarily an accident waiting to happen, it just means that there we need to be more cautious than we might otherwise be. If hazards are managed properly then our little ones can remain perfectly safe. Here are a few questions of safety that you might ask yourself...
1. Should I use a Baby Walker? For many years it was advised not to bother with a baby walker. They looked nice, but caused so many accidents its wasn't worth the risk. There is now a standard required for baby walkers (BS EN 1273:2005), which has hopefully reduced the number of accidents. However, do use with care. Babies can still get around very quickly and could approach stairs or dangerous areas. It may give them more height and therefore allow them to reach higher things on tables or work surfaces in the kitchen. Some argue they help baby to walk: this is not necessarily true. Rolling, crawling, sitting, bouncing on you knee are far better ways of improving balance, and mobility for walking.
2. Is there a safe age to use bunk beds? Usually not before children six. This is because beds are designed with six year old as a minimum age. The spaces between bars and and around the mattress is tested on six year olds and are not suitable for under six's because they could get trapped. If you do use bunk beds, make sure windows are locked if they're next to a window and that there are no sharp corners (book shelves etc) below! Perhaps have a night light so they can climb down in the night if they need to.
3. When does a hot liquid get hot enough to cause a burn? Childrens' skin is thinner than an adults and will burn much more easily. Even hot tap water can burn. Certainly don't allow any child to turn on taps without your supervision. Kettle water WILL scald immediately. It's boiling at 100 degrees. A cup of tea WILL scald. Its about 70 degrees but still hot enough to scald. Once tea has been left to stand for 15 minutes, its still around 55 degrees. This WILL still be hot enough to scald in about 10 seconds.
4. Should we get rid of our pond? A toddler can drown in just 2 inches of water. If you have a pond and don't want to get rid of it, keep it covered or better still, drain it until your child is older. Turn it into a boggy garden area or a sand pit!
We are all so conscious of dangers when we take children out: cars on the road, tripping on pavements, falling from a swing. However there are 400 children admitted to hospital every WEEK with injuries following accidents in the home. This is a staggering number - especially when this is just those under the age of five!
What we have to remember is that children and toddlers and babies are constantly growing and experimenting and exploring. The way they learn is to watch and copy us. So, we need only take a look through their eyes to see what they might see and then we'll realise how accidents - that are totally avoidable - can happen. And, we'll see how easy it is to prevent those accidents taking place.
Tablets and pills - many toddlers can take off the child-resistant caps on bottles of pills. The child-resistant caps make it more difficult to open, but are not impenetrable for a child. A simple adult painkiller could poison a child. They see you take a few, and it helps your headache. If they get hold of them, they take a few and it could be disastrous. Toddlers may think they are sweets, that they taste nice, that Daddy has them so why shouldn't I, that they make them grow strong. So, keep bottles of pills well out of reach.
Lighters and matches - children can ignite lighters by accident and can cause a match to inflame by just playing with them They don't realise the danger they could cause. There are 6,000 house fires every year caused by children under ten! When they look at a match or lighter, children see the flash of light, the spark, it's like magic. Keep the matches and lighters out of reach.
Stairs - About 800 under fives are taken to hospital each WEEK having fallen down stairs. They develop the climbing skills need to get up stairs very quickly... almost without you noticing they could suddenly be able to get up a few steps. It can be dreadfully dangerous if they fall down. Kids think its fun to go up, it's a challenge and everyone else does it so why shouldn't I? Well, if they do they might fall and hurt themselves, get a stair gate and remember to use it!
Knives and utensils in the kitchen - It's so easy to forget that little ones can one day reach kitchen surfaces. Make sure all knives, and heavy utensils are well back just in case they reach up and something comes crashing down.
Hot Drinks - tea and coffee can scald and burn a baby's skin. Don't put hot drinks on low tables or on unstable surfaces. Tea and coffee is made with boiling water and stays hot for a long time. If they they go to try your tea without you seeing, and pour it over themselves by accident - it could scar your child for life!
It's not all gloom and doom! But being very aware of potential dangers is vital in order for you and your child to have a relaxed home! If you make just a few changes to the way you do things and if you just keep one step ahead if you can... you'll be okay!
A few final tips:
- Fit a smoke alarm and TEST it frequently.
- Keep all medicines, cleaning fluids in a locked cupboard out of a child's reach.
- Fit stair gates and safety guards round fires.
- Keep hot drinks on tables that are out of reach. Don't drink hot tea with your baby in your arms.
- Keep saucepan handles, electric flexes etc well out of reach.