Most American children live healthy lives. Car seats, safe cribs, and strollers help keep your child safe in and near the home. Yet, you still have to be careful and cautious. All parents and caregivers should calmly explain certain dangers to their children and help them understand how they can stay safe.
Teach your child about poisons that may be in the home, or outside the home in the yard. Your child should know about not eating berries or leaves from unknown plants. Remember, almost any substance, if eaten in large enough amounts, can be harmful or poisonous.
Only buy toys that say non-toxic on the label.
In the home:
Keep cleaning fluids, bug poisons, and other chemicals well out of a child's reach. Avoid storing toxic substances in unmarked or inappropriate containers (such as food containers). Keep everything behind a lock if possible.
Avoid using pesticides on plants if possible.
Buy medicines with child-resistant caps. Place all medications out of the reach of children.
Keep cosmetics and nail polish out of reach.
Put safety latches on cabinets that a child should not open.
If you suspect poisoning or have questions, call the National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222).
Always keep one hand on an infant who is lying on a changing table.
Place gates at the top and bottom of each stairway they may approach. Gates that screw into the wall are best. Follow all manufacturer safety instructions.
Teach your child how to climb up the stairs. When they are ready to climb down, show them how to go down steps backwards on their hands and knees. Show toddlers how to walk down steps one step at a time, holding on to a hand, handrail, or the wall.
Injury due to falls from windows can occur from even a first or second story window as well as from a high-rise. Follow these simple suggestions:
Avoid placing a crib or bed near a window that the child can open.
Place guards on windows to prevent them from opening wide enough for your child to fit through.
Make sure fire escapes are not accessible or have adequate fencing.
Some tips for avoiding falls from bunk beds include:
Children younger than 6 years should not climb to sleep on the top, as they lack the coordination to prevent themselves from falling.
Place bunk beds in a corner with walls on 2 sides and a guardrail along the top. Firmly attach any ladder.
Have a night light in the room. Do not allow jumping or roughhouse on top of or underneath the bed.
Keep guns locked up and unloaded. Firearms and ammunition should be stored separately.
Teach children the difference between guns and other weapons they see on TV, movies, or video games and real guns. They should understand that a gunshot can permanently injure or kill someone.
Never claim you have a gun with you just as a prank or threaten that you are going to shoot someone.
All children should know never to play with a real gun and certainly never to point a gun at anyone, even as a joke. If someone offers to show you a gun, say no and leave right away.
All parents and caregivers should teach the children what to do when they come across a gun:
Stop and do not touch.
Leave the area. If you stay and someone else touches the gun, you may be in danger.
Tell an adult right away.
Choking risks to watch out for include:
Keep toys with small parts out of the reach of infants and toddlers. This includes stuffed animals with buttons. Do not give coins to children under age 3.
Be careful about toys that can break easily into smaller pieces.
Do not give popcorn, grapes, and nuts to infants. Watch children when they eat. Do not let children crawl around when they eat.
Window cords are also a danger for choking or strangulation. If possible, avoid window coverings that have cords that hang down. If they are present:
Make sure cribs, beds, and furniture where children sleep, play, or crawl are away from any windows with cords.
Tie up the cords so they are out of reach, but never tie two cords together so they create a loop.
Keep plastic bags away from children. Avoid putting plastic bags and other dangerous items in a wastebasket where a young child might find them.
DO NOT put extra blankets and stuffed animals in a crib with a baby.
Put babies on their back to sleep.
Keep children away from hot drinks and stove tops.
When cooking on the stove, make sure the handles on your pots and pans are turned toward the middle of the stove. A curious toddler may reach for handles that hang over the edge of the stove.
When heating a baby bottle, always test the milk temperature to prevent burning your baby's mouth.
Safety When Outside
Inspect playground equipment for signs of deterioration, weakness, and damage. Watch and observe your child around the playground, and be careful about where they wander.
Teach children what to do if strangers approach them. Teach them at an early age that no one should touch private areas of the body, and teach them to call 911 when in trouble. Supervise young children at all times. Make sure children know their address as early as possible.
Teach children to watch for cars on streets. They must stop, look both ways, and listen for approaching traffic.
Children must also be very aware of cars on driveways and in parking lots. Cars backing up cannot see small children.
Never leave your child unattended near streets or traffic.
Important tips for backyard safety include:
Never use a power mower when a child is in the yard. Sticks, rocks, and other objects can be thrown at high speed and injure the child.
Keep children away from hot cooking grills, and keep matches, lighters, and charcoal fuel out of reach. Do not dump charcoal ashes out until you are sure they are cool.
Make sure that the knobs of propane stoves cannot be turned.
Shephard E, Quan L. Drowing and submersion injury. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 67.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.