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This Child Safety Week (5th to 11th June), Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) is raising awareness of accidents that commonly occur inside and outside the home. After infancy, the leading cause of child death in Ireland is accidents and injury.

Alarmingly, accidents and injury account for 1 in 5 deaths in children aged 1 – 14 years old, and 1 in 2 deaths in young people aged 15 – 18 years old.

These statistics are stark, but there are steps we can all take to keep children safe from harm. Children’s Health Ireland, with national experts, provides tips for parents and guardians on how best to prevent these accidents. 

Dr. Michael Barrett, Paediatric Emergency Medicine Consultant in Children’s Health Ireland, has experience with families in these circumstances. He says:

“Meeting a family of a child who has been seriously or critically injured is unfortunately a daily occurrence for emergency doctors. Currently, 30-40% of our attendances relate to injuries, poisonings, accidents, and life-threatening trauma. Also, in moving from spring to summer, this is on the increase and every day we see opportunities to better ensure the safety of infants, children, and teenagers, both at home and outside. It is crucial that together we try to prevent injuries or fatalities, which can occur in moments of misadventure or otherwise. By sensible supervision and taking proactive steps to create a safe environment, while fostering awareness about potential hazards, we can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and protect the well-being of children and young people.”

Safety in the home

Dr. Michael Barrett advises:

“Infants, children, and teenagers often approach life with a fearless and adventurous spirit, driven by a great sense of fun, learning, and exploration. While this is wonderful, it can sometimes lead to reckless behavior and moments of misadventure. It is essential to create safe environments and educate on potential hazards to prevent injuries while providing appropriate supervision.”

Here are some safety dos and don’ts for inside the home:

DO:DON’T:
Teach your children about safety and lead by example.
Go down to your child’s level and inspect the rooms in your house. Ask yourself if anything is a potential danger to your child. Put corner guards on table edges and any other sharp edges to prevent painful knocks and scrapes.

 

Keep medicine and chemicals out of sight of children.
In 2022, 6,177 enquiries to the Poisons Information Centre of Ireland involved children aged 14 years or under accidentally ingesting medicine. Keep all products in their original containers. Try to use containers with safety caps but remember these are child-resistant, not child-proof.

 

Childproof your stairs.
Falling down the stairs is one of the most common causes of falls in children. To prevent this, install protective stair gates at the top and the bottom of stairs. When a child is old enough, show them how to climb the stairs slowly and safely.

 

Lock your windows.
Use window restrictors that do not need tools to open (in the event of a fire).

Leave your children alone in your home.
Ensure that an adult is watching young children at all times. Children do not yet understand danger, they are unpredictable, and they cannot manage their own safety.

 

Leave personal items where children can reach them.
Handbags, for example, contain items such as medicines, cosmetics, and car keys.

 

Let your young children have access to cupboards.
Children love exploring, but cupboards are full of choking hazards, sharp objects, and poisons. Cupboard locks avoid this and avoid pinched or even severed fingers. Keep household cleaning products and laundry products in a cupboard where your child can’t see them or reach them.

 

Have unprotected fires in your home.
A fire guard is usually the safest and most secure solution for keeping children safe around fire, particularly babies who are crawling, and toddlers.

Safety outside the home:

Dr. Michael Barrett advises:

“Outdoor play is vital for the physical and emotional development of children and teenagers. However, their safety must be our top priority. Supervision, boundaries, and following guidance are key to ensuring they navigate outdoor spaces without harm. Avoid toys, equipment, and circumstances that are not age-appropriate or potentially lethal (e.g. electric scooters). By staying vigilant and teaching them about potential dangers, we can allow them to enjoy the outdoors safely and responsibly.”

Here are some safety dos and don’ts for outside the home:

DO:DON’T:
Supervise your children in the playground.
Always watch your child when they are playing in the playground. Also, check railings, climbing frames, and step-up slides thoroughly.

 

Ensure all gates are locked, and children are unable to climb the fences or walls.
When playing outside, be sure they cannot access a road, a lane, or a farm.

 

Make sure your child is using age-appropriate toys and equipment.
For example, trampoline use under 6 years of age is considered dangerous. More than 1 person on a trampoline can lead to accident and injury. E-scooter users must be 16 or older.

 

Dress for playing outside, for the weather, and be sunsmart.
Put items on your children that are suitable in age and size. Check for loose tags/strings that may get caught. Wear appropriate sunscreen and protective clothing.

Let your child cross the road alone until they are at least 12 years old.
Research shows that children do not have the ability to safely interact with traffic until they are 12 years old. This is why, under 12-year-olds need the help of an adult to safely walk on and cross the road.

 

Underestimate the danger of water.
From 2017 to 2021, there have been 18 water-related deaths in children under the age of 18. It is important to supervise children in the water, both in and outside the home, at all times.

 

Let your child anywhere near lawnmowers.
This includes ride-on lawnmowers, strimmers, and hedge cutters.

 

Let children play near BBQs.
Don’t let them play near barbecues, or anything that contains or collects water.

 

The stats:

  • Currently, 30-40% of CHI Emergency Department attendances relate to injuries, poisonings, accidents, and life-threatening trauma.
  • Accidents and injury account for 1 in 5 deaths in children aged 1 – 14 years old, and 1 in 2 deaths in young people aged 15 – 18 years old.
  • From 2017 to 2021, there were 18 water-related deaths in children under the age of 18.
  • In 2022, 6,177 enquiries to Poisons Information Centre of Ireland involved children aged 14 years or under accidentally ingesting medicine.

Further information: