Despite the best childproofing and safety efforts, childhood accidents sometimes happen. Here are examples of some common childhood emergencies, including how they’re most likely to happen, and tips for how to avoid them.
Burns are among the most common childhood accidental injuries, and they can happen several ways:
- Electrical burns and shock from inserting fingers or objects into outlets or biting electrical cords
- Flames from stoves, lamps, matches, lit cigarettes, fireplaces, and house fires
- Touching hot surfaces, such as stoves, heaters, and microwaved containers
- Hot liquid and steam from pans, cups, hot water heaters, and bath water
- Set water heaters no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Never leave food cooking unattended on the stove, and keep pot handles turned out of reach. Always supervise children in the kitchen.
- Install and maintain smoke alarms on every floor of your home and near bedrooms.
Every day in the United States, more than 300 children are treated for poisoning in emergency rooms, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Accidental poisoning can happen from:
- Swallowing shampoo, aftershave, perfume, cleaning products, hand sanitizer, and liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes
- Eating medication or vitamins, or taking an incorrect dose of medicine
- Exposure to carbon monoxide from gas appliances such as stoves and heaters
- Get rid of expired or unnecessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
- Keep medicines, personal care products, cleaning solutions, and household chemicals out of reach (and out of sight) of young children.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors.
Drowning remains a leading cause of death for children through age 14, and even small amounts of water pose a danger to very young kids. Take the following precautions to reduce your child’s risk:
- Be cautious with young children around water in toilets, bathtubs, and buckets, and ice chests and coolers containing water or ice.
- Make sure hot tubs, spas, whirlpools, and swimming pools are inaccessible to your child.
- Keep your child away from fountains, irrigation ditches, postholes, and wells.
- Supervise your child closely whenever she’s playing around water.
- Make sure buckets and pails are empty when you’re not using them.
- Keep the toilet lid down and the bathroom door closed.
- Never leave your child unattended around water.
Some falls and tumbles are inevitable as children learn to stand, walk, run, and climb. Most aren’t serious, but falls are actually the leading cause of nonfatal injuries for children, including head injuries, fractures and sprains, and contusions or bruises.
Some of the most common places children fall from include:
- Beds, changing tables, and other furniture
- Slippery floors
- Shopping carts
- Play equipment
- Unsecured infant seats
- Baby walkers
- Windows without proper guards or stops
- Install window guards, stair gates, and guard rails.
- Take your child to age-appropriate playgrounds with soft surfaces under the equipment.
- Never leave a baby unattended on a changing table or other piece of furniture.
Choking, strangulation, and suffocation
Very young children put pretty much everything into their mouths. And if there’s a way for your child to get tangled up in cords or ribbons, she’ll probably find it. Here are some examples of everyday objects that can be hazardous to your child:
- Small bits of food (including pet food), toys, batteries, bottle caps, coins, balloons, marbles, pen or marker caps, magnets, buttons, rubber bands, small barrettes or hair bows, and water beads are choking hazards.
- Necklaces, drawstrings on clothes, baby headbands, strings, ties, and ribbons as well as cords on toys, household appliances, window blinds, and other fixtures could cause strangulation.
- Improperly fastened safety harnesses in a highchair or stroller could allow a baby to slip down and become trapped.
- Older cribs with drop rails can trap a baby, and blankets, pillows, crib bumpers, and air mattresses can lead to suffocation.
- Keep cribs and beds away from windows with blinds or cords.
- Check between sofa and chair cushions for small toys that might have slipped down where little fingers can find them.
- Keep choking and strangulation hazards away from young children.
- Never lay your baby facedown on a soft surface.
- Learn emergency first aid for choking and CPR, and make sure anyone who takes care of your child has this training as well.
Other common injuries
Children can surprise you with all the ways they can get hurt. Here are other injuries to watch out for:
- Nose injuries from running into stationary objects, falling on a hard surface, deflecting a flying toy, or fighting with other children
- Items stuck in a nostril or ear, such as small stones, chewable vitamins, pebbles, and peas
- Cuts and scratches from sharp fingernails, pets, sharp objects, furniture edges, sticks and other pointed objects outside
- A pulled elbow from picking up your child by one arm, jerking his arm forcefully, or swinging him around by the arms
- Eye injuries caused by dust, sand, chemical sprays, or other types of foreign matter
- Bites from animals, insects, or another child
- Childproofing your house can go a long way toward keeping your child safe from household dangers.
- Knowing first aid – and knowing how to tell whether an injury is treatable at home or needs emergency medical care – can keep a bad situation from getting worse.
Collisions aren’t the only thing to worry about when it comes to cars. Other dangers include:
- An incorrectly sized or improperly installed car seat (or not using a car seat at all)
- Heatstroke from leaving a child in a closed car
- Entrapment in power windows or car trunks
- Getting accidentally run over
- Make sure your child’s car seat is a current model in good condition and properly installed.
- Always buckle up.
- Place your cell phone or another essential item next to your child’s car seat so you won’t forget to take your child with you after you park.
- Walk all the way around your car before getting in to make sure no children are playing nearby.
- Keep your parked car locked with windows up so children can’t climb inside.
A special note about guns
One in three American homes with children has at least one gun, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. More than 2,400 children and teens die due to gun violence each year, including about 124 killed in accidental shootings. More than 3,000 others are injured in accidental shootings each year.
- Ideally, don’t have guns in the house. Keep guns unloaded in a locked location out of reach of your children, and store ammunition in a separate locked, inaccessible location.
- Use gun locks for added safety.
- Before your child plays at a friend’s house, ask if there are any guns in the home.