Updated on 16th December, 2022 by Martin Astley
As part of the third annual Family Safety Week organised by RoSPA, 24|7 Home Rescue is providing household safety tips throughout the week to raise awareness of accidents in the home, specifically among children. In this new post on the final day of Family Safety Week, we’ll explain how to prevent choking or suffocation at home.
Research has shown that within a 2-year period throughout England and Wales, 62 children died due to choking, strangulation, or suffocation, with the majority being boys under the age of 3. The majority of these accidents have occurred at home, and further research has indicated that 5,000 children aged 15 or under have been hospitalised due to choking.
Additionally, there have been at least 14 deaths of children since 2001 involving suffocating or choking on items such as nappy sacks, and a further 28 have died due to strangulation on things like blind cords since 1999. In fact, choking, suffocation, and strangulation are among the five most serious injuries sustained by children under 5 in England.
What are the main causes?
Primarily, there are three main causes for these types of injuries:
Suffocation in bed is relatively uncommon, but around seven children under the age of five die in England each year due to entrapment in adult beds or being covered by another person’s body.
Around six children under five die each year from either accidental hanging or strangulation. This is most commonly caused by becoming entangled in blind cords or crib bars.
Primarily affecting children and babies under the age of two, inhalation of food causes around 8 deaths a year in children under the age of five.
It can take merely a few minutes for a baby to suffocate, and as they cannot move freely by themselves, they are unable to move themselves into a position where they can breathe.
Ensure your child has a safe sleeping place. Many parents, especially in the first few months after your child is born, may want to take the child to bed with them, but this can be very dangerous, and some parents have accidentally suffocated their child this way in the past. Ensure your baby has a cot near to your own bed so you can keep on eye on them and you’ll sleep soundly too.
Because very young babies lack the strength to push blankets away from their faces, place your baby at the bottom of the cot to prevent your child from falling asleep.Don’t use duvets or quilts for babies under the age of 12 months and instead use lightweight blankets.
Keep diaper bags well out of the reach of young children. As they are very thin, they can easily cling to a baby’s face when they are breathing in.Also, avoid keeping them in cots, prams, or buggies.
Babies love to roll around and explore what they can, but be careful! Don’t leave your baby lying on a sofa unattended as it could get stuck between the cushions and stop breathing, and ensure the crib has sufficient space between the bars to avoid their head becoming jammed.
Plastic bags are notoriously dangerous for children under the age of five. One way to avoid your toddler getting trapped in a plastic bag is to tie a knot at the top of the bag so they can’t get into it. Once this is done, store it safely away in a locked cupboard. For any bags that seal and protect items you’ve purchased, be sure to throw them away immediately after opening.
Babies love to explore their surroundings and many like to grab and climb things before they can even walk. Household objects we may feel out of reach can also pose a serious threat to a baby’s inquisitive nature such as strings, cords and chains.
All blinds are now manufactured with specific safety requirements to prevent children from getting trapped or strangled by them. New blinds should either include hooks to place them safely out of reach or they should include no cord at all.
Be aware of any looped cords or strings, particularly from dummies, bags or ribbons as this could pose a risk to young babies. As they grow into toddlers, little ones may want to move around more an so ensure you keep any hanging strings and cords out of reach. If you do have cords on your blinds, tie them up securely or pin them in a hard-to-reach place.
Choking and Inhalation
As young children haven’t mastered the art of chewing, swallowing, and breathing in the right order, they can sometimes get mixed up, which can cause choking.
Children don’t always make a noise when they are choking so it’s important to keep an eye on them at all times and food is the most likely cause that a small child will choke. Babies are more at risk of choking as they examine most items and objects by placing them in their mouths.
Coins, small batteries, and small parts from toys can be a choking hazard for smaller children and babies, so it’s important to ensure these are removed from reach and hidden away safely.
Smaller hard foods such as sweets or ice cubes can be dangerous for a toddler, as can grapes, cherry tomatoes, blackberries, and other small fruits. Remember to cut the fruit into quarters before giving it to your child to avoid a choking hazard.
Choose toys that are appropriate for your child’s age and keep an eye out for age symbols and warning signs on the packaging.Toys with small pieces that can easily come away are not recommended for youngsters.
Avoid small magnets at all costs. Inspect any of your child’s games or toys for magnets, and avoid the magnets you usually see on your fridge. If you suspect your child has swallowed a magnet, please seek medical advice urgently.