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  • Writer's picturePaula Robertson

Preventing childhood accidents in the home

Tips for preventing common accidents

Injuries are one of the leading causes of death in children and young people, but most childhood injuries can be prevented with some simple actions. Here are some tips to prevent some of the common types of accidents seen in the emergency room:

Accidental Poisoning

Household items such as medicines, cleaners and household plants can be poisonous to children. Infants and toddlers are particularly inquisitive but have no sense of danger, so they may try to eat or drink anything they can get their hands on!

  1. Lock them up and away. Keep medicines, cosmetics, essential oils, household cleaners and laundry detergent pods in their original packaging and store them up and out of children’s reach. Avoid decanting into bottles or food/drink containers.

  2. Read the label. Follow label directions carefully and heed all warnings when giving medications to children.

  3. Handle medications, vitamins and supplements carefully. Safely dispose of unused or expired medication, vitamins and supplements. Never leave medications or vitamins out on a kitchen counter or bedside, even if your child has to take a dose later. Always relock safety caps on medicine bottles, and never tell children that medicine is ‘candy’ so they’ll take it. (Even if they don’t like to take medicine!)

  4. Check household plants. Certain plants can be irritating or poisonous if eaten, especially those with milky sap. If you are unsure your household plants are safe, keep them out of the reach of young children.


Children under 5 years of age are at the greatest risk of fall-related injury due to their curiosity, immature motor skills and a lack of judgement.

  1. Supervise closely. Supervise young children at all times around potential hazards eg stairs or playground equipment. Never leave babies or infants unattended on furniture such as a sofa, table or bed.

  2. Home safety. Use home safety devices, eg locks or guards on windows above ground level, stair gates and guard rails. These can help save a young child from taking a tumble.

  3. Keep sports safe. Sensible precautions and safety gear can help prevent injuries, for eg the use of helmets when riding bicycles.


Sadly drowning are one of the leading causes of injury-related death for young children ages 1-14, but parents can play a huge role in protecting children with these tips:

  1. Learn important life saving skills. Everyone should learn basic swimming skills, eg how to float and move through water, as well as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Community first aid courses are run by organizations such as the Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance, with Learn To Swim classes at places such as YMCA.

  2. Keep pools fenced off. Ideally a pool fence should be self-closing and self-latching, and completely separate your home and play area from the pool, to keep young children away when not swimming.

  3. Close supervision is important. Supervise young children at all times when they are in or near water. Drowning can happen quickly, so avoid distracting activities like using alcohol or drugs, playing cards or talking on the phone, and don’t let them play unsupervised with potentially hazardous beach toys (like lilos, beach balls or rings).

  4. Use life jackets. Ensure children lifejackets when in and around natural bodies of water, for eg if out on a boat, even if they know how to swim.

Burns and scalds

Younger children are more likely to sustain injuries from steam or hot liquids, while older children can be injured from flame burns. Important tips are:

  1. Safe cooking practices. Never leave food unattended while cooking on the stove, and turn the handles of pots and pans inward (so they face the back of the stove). Supervise/restrict children’s use of stove, ovens and microwaves as appropriate.

  2. Take care with hot liquids. Hot drinks can still scald young children up to 15 minutes after they are made. Therefore, never drink hot tea or coffee when holding a baby or young child. Keep kettles and hot drinks out of reach, and never pass hot drinks over the heads of babies or children.

  3. Be safe with hot surfaces. Irons or hair straighteners can still seriously burn children several minutes after being unplugged. Take care with using them, and store safely out of reach immediately after use. Some hair straighteners even come with specially designed cool bags for safe storage.

  4. Remember fire safety. Install and maintain smoke alarms in your home, and test them regularly. Create and practice a family fire escape plan (with emergency numbers easily visible), and identify a safe central meeting place outside in the event of a fire.

Remember, accidents can happen, but with a few simple steps the chances of a serious injury due to a household accident can be reduced.

Be safe,


Dr Paula Robertson is a mom and a paediatrician with over twenty years' experience working with children, young people and their families.

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