Sunday, March 11, 2007

Simple measures for your Child's Safety

Let me share some useful pointers which I got through a forwarded email. Please leave a comment if you have any more tips like this.

Here is a list of commonly to prevent many commonly occuring accidents.


Electricity is dangerous. Children love to stick objects into exposed electrical outlets. Use dummy plugs to cover unused outlets — if these are not readily available, simply buy a new plug and insert into the outlet.

Avoid leaving long lengths of power cords exposed — the child can pull these and cause an appliance to fall. Also make sure that all the power cords are in good condition, without being frayed. Avoid using too many extensions since these can overheat and cause a short circuit or a fire.

If you are having a new home or flat built, ask the electrical contractors to install an Earth Linked Circuit Breaker (ELCB). This is a device that will instantly shut off the supply to the home if it detects an earth leak, such as when someone accidentally gets an electric shock. You can also request that all the outlets and switches be installed at a height above the reach of the average toddler.

The kitchen

Many household accidents happen here.

Children love to play with fire — do not leave matches around where a child can get hold of them. Teach children about fire safety from an early age. Also, do not leave pots and pans on the gas or range unsupervised. Ensure that the handles of saucepans or other vessels are turned away — this will make it harder for a toddler to reach up and tip the contents over himself.

Keep all knives, forks and other sharp objects out of reach. This includes items like mixer blades.

Keep all kitchen and other household cleaners out of the reach of children, preferably under lock and key. This also applies to kerosene, if you use it.

The bathroom

Keep all cleaning agents, such as acids and detergents in a locked cabinet. Many of these compounds are highly corrosive and can do serious damage if ingested.

Adjust the temperature control on your geyser so that it is not too hot — you should be able to hold your hand without discomfort in the hot water stream.

Food safety

Many foods can be dangerous for small children since they can aspirate the items, which will result in blockage of the breathing passages. The air passages of a child are relatively small and are easily blocked. In addition, children often talk or laugh with food in their mouth. It is difficult to enforce the following safety tips but medical professionals see many disasters that could have easily been avoided.

Children under five years should not eat hard items like murukku, seedai and hard candy. Nuts are especially dangerous. Popcorn (which is light) can easily be aspirated into the lungs.

Teach children not to put too much food into their mouths and also not to talk with food in the mouth.


Many toys can be dangerous. There are no enforceable guidelines in India about toy design and safety issues. You can take the following steps to ensure that toys do not hurt your child.

Make sure that the toy is age appropriate — what is suitable for an older child may be unsafe for a younger child.

Watch out for toys with sharp edges and small parts — children below three years can aspirate small parts and choke.

Avoid toys that have paint that peels off. The paint can be ingested when a child puts it into his mouth.

If a toy uses button cells, be very careful since toddlers can swallow them.

Baby walkers

Baby walkers can be extremely dangerous and are totally unnecessary. Babies who use walkers do not start walking any faster than others. However, babies do not have the ability to control the extra mobility provided by a walker and can run into furniture or other objects, or fall down stairs and get hurt.


Go around the house regularly and ensure that there are no sharp edges exposed that can hurt a child.

Keep all medicines out of the reach of children. Many tablets look like candy and toddlers love to eat them. Even medicines like iron tablets and vitamins are dangerous.

Do not give leftover medicines prescribed on a previous occasion or for others to a child — it may be both inappropriate and dangerous.

Do not allow children to play unsupervised on balconies.

Do not allow children to play on the rooftop, even if supervised. Most parapet walls are not high enough to prevent a child from falling over.

Be extremely careful around stairs — infants and toddlers can easily fall down and injure themselves. If you have open stairs in a house, consider having a carpenter make a temporary safety gate until the child is old enough to use the stairs without assistance.

Do not place chains or other closed loop like objects around a child's neck. These can get caught on objects and strangulate the child.

Keep agarbati and other burning objects well away from children — children sometimes try to look at the glowing tip and get burns on the face.

Do not allow children to play with or handle plastic bags — these can suffocate a child if placed over the head.

Water safety

Children have no innate fear of water and must be carefully supervised. Even a bucket with only a few inches of water at the bottom can be a death trap for a toddler who could fall into it head first.

Be extremely wary when small children are in or near swimming pools or other water bodies. Most incidents of drowning happen in the presence of the parents or other adults. It is impossible for one person to effectively supervise a group of children and one child can easily be missed in a large group.

Travel safety

Two wheelers: No one should ride a scooter or motorcycle without wearing a helmet. Since paediatric helmets are not available, ideally no child should ride on a two-wheeler. Children are much more prone to head injuries than adults because the size of the head is larger relative to the body and therefore children fall headfirst. Even a very low speed accident can cause serious or fatal injury.

More than two people should never ride a two-wheeler. Unfortunately, it is all too common to see entire families on the same vehicle.

Car Travel: Ideally, all occupants in a car should wear seat belts — even low speed accidents can cause serious injury to passengers not wearing seat belts.

In addition, children should travel only in a properly designed child safety seat. Unfortunately, these are generally not available in India. In the absence of car seats, the following safety measures may be of some help.

Do not allow children to travel in the front — if the car stops suddenly, the child will be thrown forward and can sustain serious head injuries by hitting the windshield or dashboard.

Do not allow children to sit in an adult's lap. In the event of an accident, both will be thrown forward and the adult's weight will crush the child.

Wear seat belts, even if you mainly drive within the city — children emulate adults and they too will learn to use seat belts if you set an example. However, do not fit an adult seat belt onto a child until he is old enough, otherwise serious damage can happen in the event of an accident. In general, a child can wear an adult seat belt when he is about 4.9 feet (145 cm) tall, or weighs more than 36 kg.

Do not allow children to play with items like pencils, sticks, etc. since these can injure the child or another occupant in the event of the vehicle coming to a sudden stop.

Similarly, do not keep large, unrestrained objects in the passenger compartment — these can be thrown out and injure occupants during a sudden stop.

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