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Home in on hazards; Dear Miriam.

Byline: MIRIAM STOPPARD

Every baby's death is a tragedy - but even more so when the cause is an accident.

That was my first thought when I read about nine-month-old Mia Foster, who slipped out of her bath seat and drowned when she was left for a short time.

Her mother returned to find the child face down in 16in of water, an inquest in Gloucester heard last month.

While it's well known that a very young baby can drown in just 3cm of water, parents may be lulled into a false sense of security if they're using a specially designed bath seat, believing their baby will be safe as they're strapped in and upright.

I can't emphasise enough how wrong this is. If a baby is strong and agile, he or she can climb out of things, or try to stand up, and fall over with devastating consequences.

Babies and young children should never be left alone in water, even for a few seconds.

Safety first

When it comes to accidents at home, kids aged four and under are most at risk. While fires account for most deaths, the worst injuries are due to heat-related accidents and falls from a height.

Almost 600,000 children up to four years old need hospital treatment in the UK each year because of accidents at home, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

A lot of these are avoidable, so follow my guide on how to make your home safe for babies and toddlers.

Living/dining room

Most accidents happen in this area.

Keep hot drinks well away from babies. They're the biggest cause of scalds in the underfives. A hot drink can still scald a child up to 15 minutes after it's been made because children's skin is thin and sensitive. Never hold a baby and a hot drink at the same time, and don't pass drinks over the head of a baby or toddler.

Use a fireguard that's secured to the wall.

Never turn your back, even for a few seconds, if your baby is on a raised surface such as a sofa or changing table. They can easily roll off. Never put a baby in a bouncer on a raised surface as it's likely to topple over.

When my kids were young, I'd get down on my hands and knees so I could see the room from their point of view. It's amazing how many intriguing things there are that can be grabbed and pulled. My son once nearly pulled over a small revolving bookcase.

Get padded covers for sharp corners on items such as glass coffee tables.

Keep small objects well away from babies - including an older child's toys - as they risk choking on them.

Make sure all furniture is stable, including small tables and bookshelves. As babies learn to walk, they hang on to things for balance and can easily pull something unstable on to themselves.

Fit child-resistant locks on windows if they're big enough for a toddler to open and fall out.

Check that any houseplants your child can reach don't have poisonous leaves or berries.

Use doorstoppers so little fingers don't get trapped or broken in door hinges.

Apply shatter-resistant film to glass and keep ornaments out of reach.

Stairs and hall

The most serious falls tend to be down stairs.

I'm a big fan of safety gates, not just at the top and bottom of stairs but anywhere else where you don't want a baby to roam. Buy gates that have the British Standards or CE stamp of approval.

Make sure that stairs, passageways and floors are well lit and clear of anything a small child could trip over, including wires.

Install a smoke alarm and check it regularly.

Peak times for trouble

Accidents are most likely to happen when:

You're stressed, there's been a death in the family, during a long illness or if you're in the middle of moving home.

Something has disrupted your usual routine.

You're hurried or distracted.

You're in someone else's house.

For more info

You can visit www.babylife check.co.uk, a newNHS advice site for parents.

Visit www.rospa.com.

Kitchen

Each year 43,000 under-fives have an accident in the kitchen.

It's full of things that threaten danger, so you should: Turn pan handles away from the front of the cooker so they can't be grabbed.

Buy a guard for the oven door to prevent burnt fingers.

Keep knives, matches, cigarette lighters and poisonous chemicals, including household cleaning products and alcohol, well out of reach.

Switch off the washing machine and tumble drier at the mains when not in use. They may seem like good hiding places so shut the doors.

Keep polythene bags out of reach as they're a suffocation risk.

Bedroom

Keep big windows locked and don't place anything under the window that a child could climb on.

Put hair straighteners out of reach - they can burn a small child as badly as an iron.

Make sure cot toys don't have strings longer than 30cm as they can get tangled round a baby's neck.

Keep pull-cords short on lights and blinds so toddlers can't reach them.

Never leave a baby unsupervised with the side of the cot down.

Never sleep with a baby aged under six months, especially on a sofa or armchair, as it's associated with increased risk of cot death. Don't sleep with a baby if space is cramped, your baby was born before 37 weeks or weighed less than 51/2lbs at birth, or if you or your partner smoke, are very tired, or have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs or medication that may make you sleep heavily.

Bathroom

When running your baby's bath, put cold water in first then add warm.

Mix the water well and test the temperature with your elbow to avoid scalding.

Around 2,000 kids, mainly under five, go to hospital accident and emergency departments each year because of bathwater scalds.

Make sure cleaning products and medication have child-resistant tops and are locked away - more than 28,000 kids are treated for poisoning accidents each year.

Use a bath mat to reduce risk of your baby slipping.

Never leave your baby unattended in the bath - babies have drowned in the time it takes to get a towel.

Garden

Empty the paddling pool as soon as it's not in use and don't turn your back while there's a child in it.

If you have a pond, either fill it in or make sure it's securely fenced off until your child is older.

Additional research MADELEINE BAILEY
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 21, 2009
Words:1103
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