Crawling, climbing, chemicals and even your child’s curiosity raises red flags ― learn ways to keep junior safe at home.     

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Keeping your little one safe around the house should be a top priority as soon as they start getting mobile. Since dangers lurk at every corner of your home, your child may sustain injuries if aren’t unsupervised.


Notes Dr Khadijah Abdul Kader, a National University Hospital paediatrician and an advisor to the National Safety Council. “Singaporean children spend a large proportion of their time at home, making it the place where most accidents happen. While most injuries are minor, there have been serious and even fatal ones sustained by children at home.”


To protect your child, she advises that you get down to your little one’s eye-level to see what hazards could pose a risk to them. Then, take the time to childproof your home properly, and get your paediatrician’s advice if you aren’t familiar with certain child safety issues.


“Remember to childproof holiday stays (whether it’s at grandparents’ homes or overseas) as much as possible,” she adds. “Also, keep a first-aid kit at home, and learn how to manage common childhood injuries.”


Additionally, parents should familiarise themselves with common dangerous hazards at home. Take note of these, plus, Dr Khadijah has advice on how to keep your mini-me safe.

1. Laundry/Chemical products


What dangers this poses: Young children are drawn to play with such products as these come in different coloured liquids or bottles. As a result, they may accidentally ingest or spill the liquids over themselves, Dr Khadijah notes. Because of the concentrated nature of these products, irritation or burns may occur on coming into contact with the skin or eyes. And if ingested, they may also cause breathing difficulties, pain, seizures, coma and even death.


How to keep your child safe: Keep all laundry and cleaning products out of the reach of young children. “For example, these products can be kept in a cupboard with a child-safe lock, or stored on the upper shelves,” Dr Khadijah advises. “Ensure that all bottles are tightly capped when not in use, and keep laundry or cleaning products in their original packaging to prevent confusion.”


If your child accidentally spills some of these chemicals on their skin, remove the wet clothing and rinse immediately with tap water.

2. Electrical outlets


What dangers this poses: Electrical outlets attract curious children. “If they stick wet fingers or conducting metal into these outlets, electrocution can occur and frequently results in severe injury or death,” Dr Khadijah warns. “Electric shocks can also occur from exposed wires, or if the wires come into contact with water the child is sitting or standing in.”


How to keep your child safe: Cover all electrical outlets and make sure wires are well insulated and tucked away. Wires should not run across the floor as children may trip and fall over the cables. Most importantly, keep electrical appliances away from water (especially in the bathrooms), she stresses.

3. Stairs & windows


What dangers this poses: Children love to climb and play on stairs, and sometimes they lose their balance or trip and fall, Dr Khadijah notes. While most suffer minor injuries such as bruises and scrapes, falls can result in broken bones, bumps on the head and bleeding in the brain.


“Most people in Singapore live in high-rise buildings with dangerously high windows, and children like to watch activity happening outside through windows,” she adds. “In Singapore, there have been reports of children falling to their death from windows in January and June this year alone.”


How to keep your child safe: Never leave children unattended near stairs or windows, and install child safety gates at the top of stairs to prevent curious toddlers from taking a tumble down. Use anti-slip stair treads and low handrails to teach children to use the stairs safely.


Also, install window guards or grilles and keep furniture (or anything else a child can climb on) away from windows. Be sure to lock all windows before leaving the house as well.

4. Button batteries


What dangers this poses: Found in remote controls, keys, watches, children’s toys and calculators, young children may see button batteries as candy and swallow them, Dr Khadijah says. The coin-sized battery, which will be lodged in the child’s intestine, can cause severe burns and bleeding and injure the internal organs.


“Sometimes, burns are severe enough to cause a hole in the intestine, and even when the battery is subsequently removed, the child may have to undergo multiple corrective surgeries,” she explains. “In Singapore, most children are seen at the children’s emergency department before this happens, but the child still has to be put to sleep and a flexible camera inserted through the mouth to retrieve the button battery.”


How to keep your child safe: Keep all appliances with batteries out of your children’s reach. Also ensure that any toys with batteries have screw-on covers that will close tightly. When you replace the batteries, throw away the old ones immediately and do not leave them lying around the house.

5. Sharp objects


What dangers this poses: Sharp objects such as kitchen knives left unattended on counters can cause cuts and wounds if young children pick them up, says Dr Khadijah.  “Screwdrivers, nails, curtain hooks, scissors and sewing needles are also common household items with the potential to cause injuries.”


How to keep your child safe: Keep sharp objects in locked or latched drawers at all times. When cooking, ensure that all sharp objects are kept in the centre of the kitchen counter, then wash and store away immediately after use.

6. Unsecured furniture


What dangers this poses: Children may pull on standing fans, drawers, cupboards and other standing furniture, causing such items to topple forward onto them. “They may then get trapped beneath these and sustain cuts, scrapes or broken bones,” Dr Khadijah warns. “If kids fall backwards onto their head, they may also sustain head injuries. Additionally, if a child pulls on a tablecloth, hot items may spill onto them and cause scalds or burns.”


How to keep your child safe: Keep standing fans in locked rooms or places not usually accessible to young children. Fix standing furniture to the walls where possible and latch or lock bottom drawers to prevent young children from pulling them open, Dr Khadijah advises. Also, use placemats instead of tablecloths for very young children.

7. Small objects


What dangers this poses: “Children are most likely to choke on small objects when they are between the ages of 6 months and 3 years old,” Dr Khadijah notes. “Although most episodes of choking involve food items, other small items around the house can pose a hazard.”


Beads, coins and small toy parts fit easily into small mouths, ears and even noses, she adds. If ingested, these may pass smoothly through the gastrointestinal tract and come out in the child’s poop. However, these small objects are sometimes inhaled and need to be removed from the airways. Small objects in ears and noses also have to be removed, as they may cause infection or bleeding.


How to keep your child safe: Buy age-appropriate toys for younger children, and keep older children’s toys separately. Put other small objects in child-safe containers and out of the reach of children

8. Bath tubs


What dangers this poses: Children can slip in bath tubs and sustain bumps over their heads. In fact, infants can drown in as little as 2.5cm (1 inch) of water, Dr Khadijah warns.


“If water enters the child’s lungs, this makes it harder for the child to breathe and is sometimes called secondary drowning,” she adds. “As a protective mechanism, the child’s vocal cords may spasm to protect the airway from water that may enter, and this also causes breathing difficulties. These events are rare but important to know about.” As such, any child who looks blue, drowsy or has breathing difficulties needs immediate medical attention.


How to keep your child safe: Always supervise children in bath tubs and around water. Use non-slip mats in bath tubs, and recognise the signs of breathing difficulties so that you can get appropriate help immediately.

9. Beds


What dangers this poses: Falling from beds is an unfortunately common occurrence for infants. “This usually happens when a parent or caregiver places an apparently sleeping infant on the bed and leaves to attend to something else,” Dr Khadijah notes. “An infant who is able to roll over (starting from age 4 months and up) is at the highest risk of falling off the bed.”


How to keep your child safe: Place sleeping infants in cots, even if you think you will only be away for just a second.