Family doctor


Children's Health



This article provides a thorough overview of steps that can be taken to prevent accidents in the home and at play. It includes sections on water and fire safety.


  • Childhood injuries mostly occur at home, on the roads or during play
  • Falls are the most common cause of childhood injury
  • Other common causes include burns, poisoning, and being cut by glass
  • Children's toys must be safe and appropriate for their age
  • Helmets should always be used when cycling, skateboarding or roller blading
  • Keep matches and lighters away from children, and make sure lighters are childproof

Common causes of injury:

Accidents are one of the biggest causes of death and injury among children, but much can be done to help prevent them.

Falls are the most common cause of injury for children of all ages, but common causes of death include child passengers injured in motor vehicle accidents, injuries to child pedestrians, and drownings.

For young children under four years of age accidental suffocation, burns and scalds, are included in the leading causes of death.

School aged children are more at risk of death from biking accidents and falls.

For younger children their homes are the most common site of injury, and between the ages of 5 - 9 years, playground injuries begin to feature more prominently.

Ten to 14 year olds are more at risk of being injured during sports games and recreation activities, and from cycling and car accidents.

Water Safety

An estimated 40 percent of drownings in under five year olds happen in home pools, but for babies under the age of one, the bath is the most common site of drowning.

The bath is also a common site of drowning for all children under five, but becomes less of a risk as the child grows older.

Toddlers are at risk of drowning in buckets, paddling pools and other containers of water. They become less at risk after the age of four.

Children over the age of five are more at risk of drowning outside the home environment. Only 13 percent of drowning occurs around the home. Common sites include other pools (13%), rivers (23%), surf beaches (8.5%), other salt water environments (26.5%), and other fresh water sites (16%).

Safety checklist
  • Never leave a baby or young child alone in a bath
  • If you have to answer the phone or door, take the child with you
  • Never leave buckets of water or other containers lying around. Empty them as soon as you have finished with them, and turn them upside down so rain water can't collect in them
  • Teach your children how to swim as soon as possible, and teach water safety to children
  • All home pools should be fenced
  • If you live near the sea, river or a lake, fence your back section
  • Empty paddling pools immediately after use
  • Always supervise children around the water
  • Ensure children always swim between the flags at surf beaches
  • Blow up armbands and water wings are toys and should not be relied on as a life saver. Children must be supervised at all times


Babies are often injured by being dropped or rolling off furniture like beds, chairs, changing tables and push chairs.

Babies are often injured in falls when they start crawling, from falling down stairs, off decks, or through windows.

Babywalkers carry a high risk of head injury in children under one and they are not recommended.

Older preschoolers are commonly injured in falls from furniture, and play equipment like trampolines and swings.

Safety checklist
  • Have everything handy while changing nappies, or do it on the floor. Do not leave a baby alone in an adult bed or changing table
  • Do not leave a baby in a car seat or bouncinette on a high surface
  • Second hand nursery equipment is sometimes unsafe, try to find out its history before you buy
  • Avoid babywalkers due to the high rate of accidents
  • Buy good safe footwear for children
  • Install safe handrails around your deck or porch
  • Place a safety guard at the top of stairs or steps
  • Beware of slippery surfaces where children are playing
  • Keep furniture away from high windows or install safety catches on windows
  • Make sure children's play equipment is safe, a sensible height, and the surface is not too hard


Children's toys have the potential to become dangerous to infants if they are not suitable for the child's age.

Toys with small parts should be kept well away from babies because they are a frequent cause of choking. The five to seven month age group is the most at risk period for choking accidents.

If choking occurs in babies under one year, hold the child upside down, or over your knee and slap between the shoulder blades up to four times. Remove the object if it is easy to dislodge otherwise don't touch it because you may push it down further.

For older children who are conscious, hold them from behind with your hands just below their ribs, and give six to 10 thrusts, by pulling your hands into their chest.

Toys for under three year olds should be large enough so they can't be swallowed.

Babies under six months should have toys that are more than 32 mm wide and 60 mm long to avoid choking. Anything larger than a ping pong ball is considered unsafe. Strings on baby toys must not be more than 150 mm (6 inches) in length so they cannot be pulled around the baby's neck.

Toys which break can also pose a safety hazard for older children and all toys should be inspected to ensure they are safe.

Safety checklist
  • Buy toys which fit your child's age group
  • Buy strong toys and check them for any loose parts or broken pieces
  • Throw away the packaging carefully because some plastics can present a risk of suffocation
  • Put ventilation holes in toy boxes and other places children like to hide
  • Avoid putting squeaky toys close to the baby's ear because this can result in hearing loss
  • Beware of teething toys which contain liquid
  • Polystyrene pellets in beanbag toys can be inhaled and cause suffocation
  • Avoid flammable, long-haired cuddly toys
  • Eyes and buttons can also come off soft toys. Look out for those with a long jagged hook
  • Plastic toys can become brittle after exposure to sunlight; they can break and be dangerous
  • Avoid projectile toys with sharp tips or points
  • Protect outdoor equipment like swings from rusting by painting or galvanising, and regularly check ropes on swings
  • Trampolines can be dangerous and safety pads should be used around the edges
  • Skateboards and roller blades should be used on flat surfaces away from traffic, and children should wear knee and elbow pads, wrist gloves and a crash helmet
  • A helmet should always be worn when cycling and children under 10 do not have the development knowledge to ride a bike in traffic slowly
  • Bikes should have a chainguard and a reflector tape, and check tyres and brakes regularly

Fire, Burns, and Scalds

Fire safety is extremely important. All families should have an escape plan in the event of a fire.

Safety checklist
  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach and ensure only childproof lighters are in the home
  • Install a smoke detector, and have a fire extinguisher
  • Avoid high fire risk nightwear and clothing
  • Use fireguards with fires and heaters
  • Watch for flammable glue in model and kit sets
  • Supervise children using chemistry sets
  • Place hot drinks away from children, and do not use tablecloths that can be pulled
  • Test the temperature of baths before bathing children
  • Ensure your water is no hotter than 55¬?C at the tap


The most common household voltage is 230 volts, and it only takes a small flow of current at that level of voltage to cause heart spasms.

In New Zealand one child dies every 18 months and 30 children are injured due to accidents with electricity.

Safety checklist
  • Keep electrical cords well away from water and from hanging down where children can reach them
  • Cover power points near the ground so children can't play with them
  • Throw out any old electrical goods, leads and power points and replace them with new safe ones
  • Safety switches are available which help to ensure the electricity is shut down if a child plays with or comes into contact with electricity
  • Safety switches can also be used outside so that the electricity is turned off if there is a leakage to earth
  • Ensure older children stay away from power lines, power poles, boxes and transformers
  • Educate family members so they know not to touch a person who is having an electric shock until the power is turned off

Road Safety

Pedestrian injuries and car accidents are a leading cause of accidents among children. The following precautions must be taken:

  • Teach children how to cross the road safely. Young school children and those under five should not cross the road without an adult or older child. Teach the STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN rule.
  • Children should wear bright clothing during the day, and reflective clothing at night.
  • Children should not play on the road, footpaths, or driveways.
  • Make sure your children always wear a helmet while bike riding. The bike should also have lights at the front and rear when cycling at night.
  • Children must always wear seat belts in a car, and babies and under fives should be in an appropriate car seat from birth

Other points

Some common household appliances also carry a risk of accidents and should be kept away from children, these include:

  • Irons
  • Sewing machines
  • Lawnmowers
  • Tools
  • Hinges on doors and other things
  • Tractors and other farm machinery

Getting help

Call an ambulance if the child shows any of the following signs after an injury:

  • The child is or has been unconscious
  • The child has vomited or seems drowsy after an accident
  • They may have been poisoned
  • The child is having trouble breathing
  • You cannot stop the bleeding from a cut
  • The child is in severe pain
  • The child is bleeding from an ear
*This information was kindly provided by SafeKids

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