Should you need urgent health advice please contact your GP or call NHS 111. In an emergency please visit A&E or call 999

We offer tailored content specific to your area. Check below to find your local area.

Choose your location for articles and services where your live:

Each year, more than a million children are taken to Accident and Emergency, their GP or an urgent care centre as a result of an accident, with around 40,000 children under five being admitted to hospital.

Of course children are naturally curious, so some minor accidents (such as trips and falls as your child learns to walk) are an inevitable part of life. But as a parent or carer, you’ll naturally want to look out for any potential risks and do your best to prevent accidents from happening.

Childhood accidents include falling, choking, head injuries, cuts, drowning, poisoning and ingestion or strangulation, and each stage in a child’s development presents different risks. Your child’s personal child health record (Red Book) has specific advice for each stage.

First aid

It’s a good idea to keep a well-stocked first aid kit in your home and in your car. Use a sturdy box which is large enough to put bottle of medicine in. The box should be easily identifiable as the first aid kit so that it’s handy for adults but kept out of the reach of young children. You can find a list of the essentials to include in this here.

If you want to attend a first aid course, you can find details on the British Red Cross website (or by calling 0845 527 7743) or the St John Ambulance website.

This graphic provides information on what you should do and where you should go if your child falls unwell or gets injured. Click on the image below to view it in full size and download:

Advice for parents during coronavirus

What to do if your baby’s unresponsive

A baby who’s not breathing is a frightening prospect. St John Ambulance have made this supportive video to show you how to give baby CPR.

This video was not produced by Health for Under 5’s and may contain adverts.

You can find further step-by-step advice here.

Choking

Babies and young children like to put things in their mouths, so could easily swallow small objects such as buttons, plastic toys or button batteries.

Prevention is key, so get down to your child’s level to check what they can see and reach. You’ll also need to do this when you visit new places. Once they’ve moved on to solid foods, make sure you supervise their eating, being careful to cut up foods like grapes to reduce the risks of choking too.

For what to do if your baby’s choking, take a look at this video from St John Ambulance:

This video was not produced by Health for Under 5’s and may contain adverts.

The Child Prevention Accident Trust also has lots of advice to prevent choking and other accidents.

Button batteries

There’s been a lot in the media recently about the risks posed by button batteries – the small round batteries that are found in objects such as remote controls, smart watches and toys. Button batteries can be extremely dangerous for children if swallowed or inserted into an ear.

Magnets

Small powerful magnets are sometimes sold as toys, decorative items and fake piercings, and are becoming increasingly popular. They may also be found in some puzzles or craft items. Unlike traditional magnets, these ‘super strong’ magnets are small in volume (so can be easily swallowed) and powerful in magnetism.

This is extremely dangerous because if more than one ‘super strong’ magnet is swallowed separately, or a ‘super strong’ magnet is swallowed with a metallic object, they can be strongly attracted together from different parts of the intestines. This compression of bowel tissue can cause damage to the intestines and/or blood vessels within hours, causing serious damage and sometimes death.

Urgent assessment and treatment is vital. If you suspect that your child has swallowed one or more magnets, go straight to A&E or dial 999.

If you have small powerful magnets in your home, or products containing magnets, always keep them away from children. Make sure that older children are aware of the dangers of using magnets as jewellery products or as fake tongue or facial piercings.

Super strong magnets Super strong magnets

More information about ‘super strong magnets’ can be found here.

Falls from open windows

Keeping windows open is a great way to let some fresh air into your home, but each day one child under five years old is admitted to hospital after falling from one.

Young children are susceptible to falls from height because:

  • They are naturally curious and do not yet have a full understanding of danger
  • They develop quickly, and can catch parents off guard by climbing and opening windows and doors
  • Accidents can happen quickly when a parent’s back is turned
  • Their heads are proportionally much larger than adults and older children, giving them a different centre of gravity. This means that a fall from a height is likely to impact the head

Preventing falls from windows

If you can, move furniture away from windows so that it’s more difficult for your child to climb up. For older children, you can also warn them of the dangers of climbing.

Fit window latches, locks or restrictors to prevent windows opening too wide. Safety equipment is available for all types of windows.

If you decide to fit a latch with a lock, remember to keep the keys in an easy to access place in case of fire. You can read more about fire safety here.

Read more about preventing falls here.

Drowning

A drowning child will not be able to speak, shout or control their arms to splash. This makes it impossible for them to alert anyone else that they are drowning.

When at home, babies and toddlers are most likely to drown in the bath or in bodies of water such as a garden pond or paddling pool. Babies can drown in as little as 5cm of water, so it’s really important to supervise them at all times near any water hazards.

Never leave your young child unsupervised in the bath, not even for a moment. You’ll need to supervise your child at all times, even if they have a bath seat – these seats are easy to slip out of. Get everything you need ready in the bathroom before bathing your child, as you will need to stay with them. Do not rely on other children to supervise a baby or young child in the bath or near water.

Preventing drowning in the garden

Cover, fence off or drain a garden pond if you have young children, and make sure any neighbouring ponds or bodies of water can’t be accessed. When visiting other homes, be alert to water hazards.

If you’re using a paddling pool, supervise your child at all times, and be sure to completely empty it after use.

Electricity

Modern electrical sockets are designed to keep children safe from shocks, but children playing with wiring and appliances can cause burns and house fires.

Keep potentially dangerous devices out of young children’s reach and away from water. For example:

  • Electrical devices such as hairdryers, straighteners and mains-operated radios should be kept out of the bathroom.
  • Plug sockets should not be overloaded. Be aware not just of how many plugs are going into one socket, but also how much power they are using. Kettles and irons use more power than lamps and even TVs.
  • Older electrical appliances can cause house fires. Check plugs, sockets and wires for scorching or fraying. If there’s a problem, use a registered electrician to fix them.

If you have a fireplace surround, ensure it has been fitted by a professional. Unstable fire surrounds can topple and cause injury or death due to their weight.

Useful links

Page last reviewed: 19-10-2020

Next review due: 19-10-2023