From birth to age 2, children depend on parents and other caregivers for their safety. Safety issues change and increase rapidly in number as newborns grow into toddlers.
You can help protect your child from accidents and injuries by taking general safety measures around your home. Think ahead about what potentially dangerous situations will attract your child. Supervise your child, but keep in mind that constant hovering over children can limit their experiences and confidence. Balancing supervision with safety precautions will help prevent accidents and injuries, as well as allow children to explore.
The following are common accidents and injuries that can occur around the house and some suggestions on how to prevent them.
In the United States, safety standards for children's equipment, furniture, clothing, and other items are set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Although most new items you buy will likely meet these standards, older and used items may not. Equipment that has been used before, such as a baby carrier, may not be safe. These items may have wear and tear that affects how they function. The CPSC may also have recalled some items because of reported hazards.
Check that all the products your baby uses meet current standards. The following list provides safety information for items frequently used by children up to age 2:1
- Cribs should meet all current safety standards, such as having less than 2.4 in. (60 mm) of space between slats. Don't use sleep positioners or bumper pads.
- Baby walkers should not be used, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children can fall down stairs and get hurt. An activity center is a better choice.
- Playpens should have spaces in the mesh material that do not exceed 0.25 in. (0.6 cm) across. Wooden slats should measure less than 2.4 in. (60 mm) apart. Be careful about the toys you put in the playpen. As your children grow, they can get tangled in mobiles or may use larger toys as steps to boost them out of the enclosure.
- High chairs should have a wide, stable base. Always take time to make sure the high chair is locked in the upright position before use. If you need to use a seat that hooks onto a table, make sure it locks onto the table. And make sure your baby can't push against the table support. Use the safety straps, and supervise your child at all times while he or she is in the high chair.
- Changing tables should have a railing on all sides that is 2 in. (5.1 cm) high. A slightly indented changing surface is also recommended. Always use the safety strap, and keep one hand on your child. Have diapers and other items handy, but keep them out of your child's reach.
To help you keep track of important safety features, see the topic Nursery Equipment Safety Checklist.
Safe sleeping and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Sudden infant death syndrome is one of the most common causes of death for babies 1 month to 12 months old.
Although SIDS cannot be predicted or completely prevented, placing your baby to sleep on his or her back can help prevent this tragedy. For more information, see the topic Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
You can prevent many falling accidents by using common sense and appropriate equipment that meets all safety standards. Recognize new hazards that your baby may bump into or stumble over as he or she learns to scoot, crawl, and walk. And don't allow your child to walk or run with objects in his or her mouth. Your unsteady toddler could get face and mouth injuries in addition to other injuries from falling.
- Prevent choking. Your child can choke on things smaller than 1.25 in. (3.2 cm) in diameter and 2.25 in. (5.7 cm) long. These include button batteries and coins. Keep items like these out of your child's reach.
- Learn to recognize signs of choking. For example, a child who is choking can't talk, cry, breathe, or cough.
Strangulation and suffocation
A young child can strangle from a variety of household items. Protect your child by minimizing these hazards:
- Keep cords for blinds and drapes out of your child's reach. Attach cords to mounts that hold them taut, and wrap them around wall brackets.
- Cords with loops should be cut and given safety tassels instead.
- Never use accordion-style gates. A baby or young child may trap his or her head in the gate and may strangle.
- Make sure that furniture does not have cutout portions or other areas that can trap your child's head.
Suffocation is another danger for young children. Teach your child about suffocation and the importance of a safe play area. Pay attention to possible suffocation dangers, such as:
- Trunks of cars. Keep rear fold-down seats closed so children aren't able to climb into the trunk from inside the car. Also, always lock car doors, and keep the keys out of your child's sight and reach.
- Refrigerators and freezers, even those that are not in use. If you are storing an old refrigerator or freezer, remove the door.
- Plastic sacks. Do not let your child play with plastic sacks, and keep them out of his or her reach. Many children like to play with sacks and put them over their heads.
- Be careful with baby slings. Keep your child's chin up, and keep his or her nose and mouth away from the fabric. Make sure you can see your baby's face.
- Prevent poisoning from common household items. Identify any products that could harm your child when eaten or inhaled. Store these products out of your child's reach. If you have a possible poisoning emergency, call 1-800-222-1222. For more information, see the topic Poisoning.
- Prevent lead poisoning. Children may chew on contaminated paint flakes or painted objects. Homes built before 1978 may still have lead paint on walls and other surfaces. For more information about lead, see the topic Lead Poisoning.
- Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Use a carbon monoxide detector, and have your furnace checked each year. High CO levels quickly affect young children because of their small size. For more information, see the topic Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.
- Protect your child from secondhand smoke, mold, and other indoor air pollutants. They can affect health and safety. For more information, see Tips for Reducing Indoor Pollutants in Your Home.
Fire hazards and burns
- Prevent household fires by having and maintaining smoke detectors, planning and practicing escape routes, and teaching your child basic fire safety skills. Young children are often curious about fire. Warn your child about the dangers of fire, and explain why only grown-ups are allowed to use it.
- Prevent burns. Serious burns are most often caused by heat, electricity, or chemicals. Prevent burn injuries to your child by identifying dangers in your home and removing them or blocking your child's access to them. For more information, see the topic Burns and Electric Shock.
- Enjoy fireworks from a distance. Fireworks injure children each summer. Children can also get burns from using and being around firecrackers and sparklers.
Guns and other weapons
Gun and firearm safety measures should be established for all households and especially those where children live or visit. All guns and firearms should be kept in a locked area, unloaded, and out of reach of children. Also store knives (even kitchen knives), swords, and other weapons safely out of reach.
Teach children how to interact with pets. Teach them to never tease animals or bother them while they are eating. Explain that animals can sometimes hurt you. Also be sure to train your own pets and keep them healthy.
Children younger than 5 years of age die from drowning more than any other age group.2 Help prevent drowning by following these tips:
- Supervise all baths at all times. Always stay within arm's reach of your child. Never leave your child alone in the tub-even with an older sibling.
- Deal with water hazards, and teach swimming safety. Teach your child the rules of safe swimming and how to swim. Empty all buckets and coolers when not in use. Keep toilet lids down, and consider securing them with safety latches.
- Keep pools and hot tubs safe. Don't let your child swim alone. If you have your own pool or pond, keep it fenced. Teach your child that hot tubs aren't places to play. Consider making them off-limits.
In addition to these precautions, learn first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Knowing these skills can make the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. For more information, see the topic Dealing With Emergencies.