Baby and toddler safety

Each year 40,000 under-fives are admitted to hospital following accidents, and lots of these accidents are preventable.

Here's how to protect your baby or toddler from some of the commonest accidents that affect young children.

Choking

Food is the most common thing for babies and toddlers to choke on. Young children may also put small objects in their mouths that could cause choking.

  • If you give your baby a bottle, always hold the bottle and your baby while they're feeding.
  • Keep small objects, such as buttons, coins and small toy parts, out of your baby's reach.
  • Once your baby has started on solid food, always cut it up into small pieces. Babies can choke on something as small as a grape (these should be cut lengthways). 
  • Don’t give young children hard foods, such as boiled sweets or whole nuts.  
  • Keep small, silver button batteries well away from small children. As well as being a choking hazard, they can cause severe internal burns if swallowed.
  • Stay with your child when they're eating. Encourage them to sit still while they eat, as running around while eating could make them choke.
  • Keep toys designed for older children away from babies and toddlers, as they may have small parts.

See how to help a choking baby or child

Suffocation

  • Don’t use pillows or duvets with babies under the age of one, as they can suffocate if their face gets smothered. They won’t be able to push the duvet away.
  • If you carry your baby in a sling, follow the TICKS advice to reduce the risk of suffocation. Keep your baby Tight, In view, Close enough to kiss, Keep their chin off their chest, with a Supported back.
  • Keep plastic bags, including nappy bags, out of reach and sight of young children. Keep them away from babies’ cots, so that they can’t reach them and put them over their nose and mouth. 

Strangulation

  • Don’t tie a dummy to your baby’s clothes, as the tie or ribbon could strangle them.
  • Always keep curtain or blind cords tied up out of reach – with a cleat hook for example – so that they’re well out of your baby or toddler’s reach.
  • Don’t leave any type of rope or cord lying around, including dressing gown cords and drawstring bags.
  • If the gaps between banisters or balcony railings are more than 6.5cm (2.5 inches) wide, cover them with boards or safety netting. Small babies may be able to squeeze their bodies through, but not their heads. 
  • Keep toys and garden play equipment well away from washing lines, so that children can't stand on them and reach the line.
  • Avoid using cot bumpers in your baby’s cot – they are a hazard for choking, suffocation and strangulation.

Falls in babies

Babies soon learn to wriggle and kick. It’s not long before they can roll over, which means that they can roll off beds and changing tables.

Here are some things you can do to stop your baby being injured:

  • Change your baby’s nappy on a changing mat on the floor. 
  • Don’t leave your baby unattended on a bed, sofa or changing table, even for a second, as they could roll off. 
  • Always keep bouncing cradles or baby car seats on the floor, rather than on a table or kitchen worktop, as your baby’s wriggling could tip it over the edge. 
  • Hold on to the handrail when carrying your baby up and down stairs, in case you trip. Make sure the stairs are free of toys and other trip hazards.
  • If you get your baby a walker, make sure it complies with British Standard BS EN 1273: 2005. Older walkers may tip over more easily and harm your baby. 
  • Watch where you’re putting your feet while carrying your baby. It’s easy to trip over something like a toy. 
  • Use a five-point harness to secure your baby in a highchair or pram every time you put them in.

When your baby starts crawling

Once they learn to crawl, babies may try to climb onto things, such as sofas, which increases the risk of falling. Here are some injury prevention tips for parents of crawling babies:

  • Fit safety gates to stop your baby getting onto stairs. Close the gates properly after you go through them.
  • If the gaps between banisters or balcony railings are more than 6.5cm (2.5 inches) wide, cover them with boards or safety netting.
  • Keep low furniture away from windows. Have windows fitted with locks or safety catches that restrict the opening to less than 6.5cm (2.5 inches), to stop babies climbing out. Make sure adults know where the keys are kept in case of a fire. 
  • Remove cot toys and cot bumpers, as a baby can climb on them and may fall out of the cot.

Falls in toddlers

When babies start to walk, they're unsteady on their feet, but can move very quickly. They tend to trip and fall. Here are some injury prevention tips for parents of toddlers:

  • Carry on using safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs until your infant is at least two years old.
  • Start to teach your child how to climb stairs, but never let them go up and down on their own (even four-year-olds may need some help). 
  • Don’t let children under six sleep in the top bunk of a bunk bed, as they can easily fall out. 
  • Keep low furniture away from windows and ensure that windows are fitted with locks or safety catches. Make sure adults know where the keys are kept in case of fire. 
  • Carry on using a five-point harness when your child is in their highchair or pushchair.
  • Keep scissors, knives and razors out of children's reach.
  • Special devices can stop doors from closing properly, preventing your child’s fingers getting trapped. At night, remember to close doors to stop any potential fires from spreading.
  • If furniture has sharp corners, use corner protectors to prevent your child from hurting their head.

Poisoning

  • Medicines are the cause of over 70% of hospital admissions for poisoning in under-fives. Common painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen are the main culprits. Keep all medicines locked away or high up out of reach and sight.
  • Keep cleaning products high up out of reach, including those for the toilet. If this isn’t possible, fit safety catches to low cupboard doors. Choose cleaning products that contain a bittering agent. This makes them taste nasty, so children are less likely to swallow them.
  • Make sure bottle tops and lids are always firmly closed when not in use. Remember that child-resistant packaging is not child-proof - it just slows children down.
  • Keep e-cigarettes and their refills out of sight and reach of babies and toddlers. Nicotine is poisonous and can be very dangerous for young children.
  • Check your garden for poisonous plants. Teach your children not to eat anything they pick outdoors until they’ve checked with an adult. 

Burns and scalds

A baby’s skin burns more easily than an adult's. This means you need to take extra care to avoid burns and scalds. 

  • At bathtime, run cold water into the bath first, then add some hot. Check the temperature with your elbow before your child gets in, and stay with them the whole time they are in the bath.
  • Babies and toddlers will grab at brightly coloured objects, such as mugs. If you’re having a hot drink, put it down before you hold your baby. Keep hot drinks well away from all young children. A hot drink can still scald 15 minutes after it was made.
  • After warming a bottle of formula, shake the bottle well and test the temperature by placing a few drops on the inside of your wrist before feeding. It should feel lukewarm, not hot. 
  • Avoid heating up bottles of formula in a microwave. Use a bottle warmer or jug of hot water instead.
  • Toddlers will play with anything they can reach, so keep matches and lighters out of young children’s sight and reach. 
  • Use a kettle with a short or curly flex to stop it hanging over the edge of the work surface, where it could be grabbed. 
  • When cooking, use the rings at the back of the cooker and turn saucepan handles towards the back, so they can’t be grabbed by little fingers.
  • When you’ve finished using your iron or hair straighteners, put them out of reach while they cool down. Make sure your child can’t grab the flex while you’re using them.
  • Keep button batteries well away from babies and small children, as they can cause severe internal burns if swallowed.

Drowning

Babies can drown in as little as 5cm (two inches) of water. Drowning is one of the commonest causes of child death – it’s often silent, so you won’t necessarily hear any noise or struggle.

  • Baths are the commonest place for babies and young children to drown. Stay with your baby or toddler the whole time they're in the bath. Never leave them for a moment, even if there’s an older brother or sister in the bath with them.
  • If you use a bath seat, remember that it’s not a safety device. You still need to stay with your baby all the time.
  • Empty the bath as soon as you’ve taken your child out. 
  • If you have a garden pond, fence it off, fill it in or securely cover it. 
  • Watch toddlers when they're in a paddling pool or playing near water. Empty the paddling pool straight after use. 
  • Make sure your garden is secure so that your child can’t get into neighbouring gardens, where there may be ponds or other drowning hazards.

House fires

Domestic fires are a significant risk to children. Smoke from a fire can kill a child in a few minutes. Chip pans and cigarettes are the most common causes.

  • Never fill a chip pan more than one-third full of oil, or get a deep fat fryer instead. If a chip pan does catch fire, switch off the hob, leave the room, close the door and call the fire brigade.
  • Extinguish and dispose of cigarettes, cigars and pipes carefully, particularly at night or if you are tired.
  • Fit smoke alarms on every level of your home. Test them every week and change the batteries every year.
  • At night, switch off electrical items before you go to bed and close all doors to contain a potential fire.
  • Work out an escape plan for your family and tell your children what to do in case of a fire. Practise the plan regularly.
  • If you have an open fireplace, always use a fireguard that encloses the whole fireplace and make sure it's attached to the wall. Don't place anything on it or hang things from it.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children.

Glass-related injuries

Broken glass can cause serious cuts. The following advice may help you keep your child safe.

  • Use safety glass at a low level, such as in doors and windows. This shatters less easily than normal glass. Look for the British Standards (BS) kitemark.
  • Make existing glass safer by applying a shatter-resistant film.
  • When buying furniture that includes glass, make sure it has the BS kitemark.
  • Always dispose of broken glass quickly and safely – wrap it in newspaper before throwing it in the bin.
  • If you own a greenhouse or cold frame (a structure to protect plants from the winter cold), make sure it has safety glazing or is fenced off from children.
  • Don't let a baby or toddler hold anything made of glass.

Safety in the sun

Exposing your child to too much sun may increase their risk of skin cancer later in life.

Sunburn can also cause considerable pain and discomfort in the short term.

That's why babies and children need to have their skin protected between March and October in the UK.

Tips to keep you child safe in the sun

  • Encourage your child to play in the shade – for example, under trees – especially between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is at its strongest.
  • Keep babies under the age of six months out of direct sunlight, especially around midday.
  • Cover exposed parts of your child's skin with sunscreen, even on cloudy or overcast days. Use one that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or above and is effective against UVA and UVB. Don't forget to apply it to their shoulders, nose, ears, cheeks, and the tops of their feet. Reapply often throughout the day.
  • Be especially careful to protect your child's shoulders and the back of their neck when they're playing, as these are the most common areas for sunburn.
  • Cover your child up in loose cotton clothes, such as an oversized T-shirt with sleeves.
  • Get your child to wear a floppy hat with a wide brim that shades their face and neck
  • Protect your child's eyes with sunglasses that meet the British Standard (BSEN 1836:2005) and carry the "CE" mark – check the label.
  • If your child is swimming, use a waterproof sunblock of factor 15 or above. Reapply after towelling.

Sunlight and vitamin D

The best source of vitamin D is summer sunlight on our skin. Because it's important to keep your child's skin safe in the sun, it's recommended all babies and young children aged six months to five years should take a daily supplement containing vitamin D, in the form of vitamin drops.

See more about vitamin D for babies and young children

Baby accidents: what to do

Most young children have some injuries and accidents. Most will be minor, but it’s sensible to know what to do if the accident or injury is more serious.

Start by learning some basic first aid or revise what you already know. The St John Ambulance, British Red Cross and your local NHS Ambulance Service run first aid courses. Your health visitor or local children's centre may also run courses. 

 

If an accident happens to your child

It can be difficult to know when to call an ambulance and when to take your child to the Accident and Emergency department (A&E). Use the following as a guide: 

Call an ambulance if your child:

  • stops breathing
  • is struggling for breath (for example, you may notice them breathing fast, panting, becoming very wheezy or see the muscles just under their ribcage sucking in when they breathe in)
  • is unconscious or seems unaware of what's going on
  • has a cut that won't stop bleeding or is gaping open
  • won’t wake up
  • has a fit for the first time, even if they seem to recover

Take your child to A&E if they:

  • have a fever and are still sluggish, despite having paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • have severe abdominal (tummy) pain
  • have a leg or arm injury and can’t use the limb
  • have swallowed a poison or tablets

If you’re worried about your child and are not sure if they need medical help, call NHS 24 111 service. If you’re unsure whether you should move your child, make sure they’re warm, then call an ambulance.

Objects in a child's nore or ears

If your child has something lodged firmly in their nose or ear, leave it where it is. If you try to remove it, you may push it further in. Take your child to the nearest A&E department or minor injury unit. If their nose is blocked, show your child how to breathe through their mouth.

If your child has a button battery lodged in their nose or ear, they should be seen as a matter of urgency.

If a child has a cut

If there’s a lot of bleeding, press firmly on the wound with a clean cloth, such as a tea towel or flannel. If you don’t have one, use your fingers.

If there is an object embedded in the wound, like a piece of glass, press around the edges of the object, rather than directly on it.

Press until the bleeding stops. This may take 10 minutes or more. Don’t tie anything around the injury so tightly that it stops the circulation.

If possible, raise the injured limb. This will help to stop the bleeding. Don’t do it if you think the limb might be broken. If you can find a clean dressing, cover the wound. If blood soaks through the pad or dressing, leave it there and put another pad or dressing over the top.

It’s very unusual for a wound to bleed so much that there's serious blood loss. An ambulance isn't usually needed, but if the cut keeps bleeding, or there’s a gap between the edges of the wound, go to A&E or a minor injury unit.

If you think there may be something in the cut, such as a piece of glass, go to A&E.

If your child’s immunisations aren’t up to date, ask your GP or the hospital whether they should have a tetanus jab.

Burns and scalds in children

Immediately put the burn or scald under cold running water to reduce the heat in the skin. Don't do this for longer than 10 minutes, as babies and toddlers can get too cold. If there’s no running water, immerse the burn or scald in cold water or use any other cool fluid, such as milk or another cold drink.

Use something clean and non-fluffy, like a cotton pillowcase, linen tea towel or clingfilm, to cover the burn or scald. This will reduce the risk of infection. If your child’s clothes are stuck to the skin, don’t try to take them off.

Don’t put butter, toothpaste, oil or ointment on a burn or scald, as it will have to be cleaned off before the burn or scald can be treated. Depending on the severity of the burn or scald, see your GP or go to a minor injuries unit or A&E.

Blisters will burst naturally. The raw area underneath them needs a protective dressing. Ask your pharmacist or practice nurse for advice.

If a child has swallowed a poisonous substance

If you think your child has swallowed pills or medicines:

  • unless you’re absolutely sure what they are, spend a minute or two looking for the missing pills
  • if you still think your child has swallowed something, take them straight away to your GP or A&E, whichever is quickest
  • take the full set of tablets with you, so that the doctors can check the labelling and calculate how much your child may have taken
  • keep a close eye on your child and be prepared to follow the resuscitation sequence
  • if possible, write down the name of whatever you think your child has swallowed, so that you can tell the doctor
  • don’t give your child salt and water, or do anything else to make them sick
  • try to keep your child calm and don't encourage them to walk around to keep awake

If you think your child has swallowed household or garden chemicals:

  • calm your child down as much as you can (this will be easier if you stay calm yourself). Act quickly to get your child to A&E
  • if possible, write down the name of whatever you think your child has swallowed, so that you can tell the doctor
  • if your child is in pain or there's any staining, soreness or blistering around their mouth, they have probably swallowed something corrosive, give them milk or water to sip to ease the burning and get them to hospital quickly

If a child swallows a button battery

Button batteries are small, round silver batteries found in lots of electrical toys and devices. If your child swallows a button battery, or you think they may have swallowed one, take them to A&E straight away.

As well as being a choking hazard, button batteries can cause internal burns because of the electrical current they give out. They can also cause burns if they are lodged in a child's nose or ear.

Read about how to help a choking child 

If a child is in shock

If your child looks pale and/or feels unwell after an accident, lie them down. Keep them covered up and warm, but not too hot. If your child feels faint, get them to keep their head down or, ideally, lie down. The faint feeling should wear off in a minute or two.

Fits or convulsions in children

If your child has a fit, they may suddenly turn blue and become rigid, with staring eyes. Sometimes their eyes will roll and their limbs will twitch and jerk, or they may suddenly go floppy. The following suggestions will help you deal with the fit:

  • Keep calm.
  • Don't try to hold them down.
  • Create a safe space around them.
  • Lie your child on their side to make sure they don’t choke.
  • Don’t put anything in their mouth. If you think they’re choking on food or an object, look in their mouth and try to remove it.
  • Remove your child’s clothing and any coverings, and make sure they’re cool, but not chilly.
  • Most fits will stop within three minutes. When it’s over, reassure your child, make them comfortable and call a doctor.
  • If the fit hasn’t stopped within five minutes, call 999. If it stops, but it was your child’s first fit, take them to the nearest A&E department to be checked over.
  • Even if it's not the first time and your child recovers quickly, let your GP know that your child has had a fit.

Although fits may look alarming, they're common in children under the age of three. Although there are other reasons why children have a fit, a high temperature is the most common trigger. 

Read more about treating a high temperature in children

Fever fits, also known as febrile convulsions, become increasingly less common after the age of three and are almost unknown after the age of five. Febrile convulsions aren't usually connected with epilepsy. 

Electrocution in children

Always turn off the power before approaching your child. If this isn’t possible, push the child away from the source of the electricity with a wooden or plastic object, such as a broom handle.

Try tapping their feet or stroking their neck and shouting "hello" or "wake up". If you get no response from your child, you must follow the resuscitation sequence.

Broken bones in children

If you think your child’s neck or spine may be injured, call an ambulance. Don’t move them. Unnecessary movement could cause paralysis. A bone in your child’s leg or arm may be broken if they have pain and swelling, and the limb seems to be lying at a strange angle.

If you can’t easily move your child without causing pain, call an ambulance. If you have to move your child, be very gentle. Put one hand above the injury and the other below it to steady and support it (use blankets or clothing if necessary). Comfort your child and take them to hospital.

If you think your child is in pain, give them painkillers, even if you’re going to A&E. Follow the dosage instructions on the label.

Resuscitating a baby

Below is the full detailed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) sequence for infants (babies under a year old) and children.

It's highly recommended that every parent goes on a first aid course, as it makes this process much easier to understand and remember.

In a life-threatening emergency, dial 999. If your child is coughing or wheezy, call NHS 111 or your GP for advice.

Child and baby CPR steps

1. Ensure the area is safe

  • Check for hazards, such as electrical equipment or traffic.

2. Check your child's responsiveness

  • Gently stimulate your child and ask loudly, "Are you all right?". 

3a. If your child responds by answering or moving

  • Leave them in the position they were found in (provided they're not in danger).
  • Check their condition and get help if needed.
  • Reassess the situation regularly.

3b. If your child doesn't respond

  • Shout for help.
  • Carefully turn the child on their back. 

If the child is under one year old:

  • Ensure the head is in a neutral position, with the head and neck in line and not tilted.
  • At the same time, with your fingertips under the point of your child's chin, lift the chin. Don't push on the soft tissues under the chin as this may block the airway.

If the child is over one year old:

  • Open your child's airway by tilting the head and lifting the chin.
  • To do this, place your hand on their forehead and gently tilt their head back.
  • At the same time, with your fingertips under the point of your child's chin, lift the chin. Don't push on the soft tissues under the chin as this may block the airway.

If you think there may have been an injury to the neck, tilt the head carefully, a small amount at a time, until the airway is open. Opening the airway takes priority over a possible neck injury, however.

4. Check their breathing

Keeping the airway open, look, listen and feel for normal breathing by putting your face close to your child's face and looking along their chest.

  • Look for chest movements.
  • Listen at the child's nose and mouth for breathing sounds.
  • Feel for air movement on your cheek.

Look, listen and feel for no more than 10 seconds before deciding that they're not breathing. Gasping breaths should not be considered to be normal breathing.

5a. If your child is breathing normally

  • Turn them on their side.
  • Check for continued breathing.
  • Send or go for help – do not leave your child unless absolutely necessary.

5b. If your child isn't breathing or is breathing infrequently and irregularly

  • Carefully remove any obvious obstruction in the mouth.
  • Give five initial rescue breaths (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation) – see below.
  • While doing this, note any gag or cough response – this is a sign of life.

Rescue breaths for a baby under one year

  • Ensure the head is in a neutral position and lift the chin.
  • Take a breath, then cover your baby's mouth and nose with your mouth, making sure it's sealed. If you can't cover both the mouth and nose at the same time, just seal one with your mouth. If you choose the nose, close the lips to stop air escaping.
  • Blow a breath steadily into the baby's mouth and nose over one second. It should be sufficient to make the chest visibly rise.
  • Keeping their head tilted and chin lifted, take your mouth away and watch for the chest to fall as air comes out.
  • Take another breath and repeat this sequence four more times.

Rescue breaths for a child over one year

  • Tilt the head and lift the chin.
  • Close the soft part of their nose using the index finger and thumb of the hand that's on their forehead.
  • Open their mouth a little, but keep the chin pointing upwards.
  • Take a breath, then place your lips around their mouth, making sure it's sealed.
  • Blow a breath steadily into their mouth over about one second, watching for the chest to rise.
  • Keeping their head tilted and chin lifted, take your mouth away and watch for the chest to fall as air comes out.
  • Take another breath and repeat this sequence four more times. Check that your child's chest rises and falls in the same way as if they were breathing normally.

5c. Obstructed airway

If you have difficulty achieving effective breathing in your child, the airway may be obstructed.

  • Open the child's mouth and remove any visible obstruction. Don't poke your fingers or any object blindly into the mouth.
  • Ensure there's adequate head tilt and chin lift, but the neck isn't overextended.
  • Make up to five attempts to achieve effective breaths (enough to make the chest visibly rise). If this is still unsuccessful, move on to chest compressions combined with rescue breaths.

6. Assess the circulation (signs of life)

Look for signs of life. These include any movement, coughing, or normal breathing – not abnormal gasps or infrequent, irregular breaths.

Signs of life present

If there are definite signs of life:

  • continue rescue breathing until your child begins to breathe normally for themselves
  • turn the child on their side into the recovery position and send for help
  • continue to check for normal breathing and provide further rescue breaths if necessary

No signs of life present

If there are no signs of life:

  • start chest compressions immediately
  • combine chest compressions with rescue breaths, providing two breaths after every 30 compressions

7. Chest compressions: general guidance

  • To avoid compressing the stomach, find the point where the lowest ribs join in the middle, and then one finger's width above that. Compress the breastbone.
  • Push down 4cm (for a baby or infant) or 5cm (a child), which is approximately one-third of the chest diameter.
  • Release the pressure, then rapidly repeat at a rate of about 100-120 compressions a minute.
  • After 30 compressions, tilt the head, lift the chin, and give two effective breaths.
  • Continue compressions and breaths in a ratio of two breaths for every 30 compressions.

Although the rate of compressions will be 100-120 a minute, the actual number delivered will be fewer because of the pauses to give breaths.

The best method for compression varies slightly between infants and children.

Chest compression in babies less than one year

  • Do the compressions on the breastbone with the tips of two fingers, not the whole hand or with two hands.
  • The quality (depth) of chest compressions is very important. If the depth of 4cm cannot be achieved with the tips of two fingers, use the heel of one hand – see advice for children, below. 

Chest compression in children over one year

  • Place the heel of one hand over the lower third of the breastbone, as described above.
  • Lift the fingers to ensure pressure is not applied over the ribs.
  • Position yourself vertically above the chest and, with your arm straight, compress the breastbone so you push it down 5cm, which is approximately one-third of the chest diameter. The quality (depth) of chest compressions is very important.
  • In larger children or if you're small, this may be done more easily by using both hands with the fingers interlocked, avoiding pressure on the ribs.

If nobody responded to your shout for help at the beginning and you're alone, continue resuscitation for about one minute before trying to get help – for example, by dialling 999 on a mobile phone.

8. Continue resuscitation until

  • Your child shows signs of life – normal breathing, coughing, movement of arms or legs.
  • Further qualified help arrives.
  • You become exhausted.

Further information on first aid

British Red Cross: first aid training courses in your area

Helping a choking baby

Children, particularly those aged from one to five, often put objects in their mouth. This is a normal part of how they explore the world. Some small objects, such as marbles, beads and button batteries, are just the right size to get stuck in a child’s airway and cause choking.

The best way to avoid this is to make sure that small objects like these are kept out of your child’s reach.

No matter how careful you are, your child may choke on something. In most cases, you or someone else will see your child swallow the object that causes choking. 

There can be other reasons why your child starts coughing. However, if your child suddenly starts coughing, is not ill, and has a habit of putting small objects in their mouth, there's a good chance that they're choking.

Tips on helping a choking child

  • If you can see the object, try to remove it. Don’t poke blindly or repeatedly with your fingers. You could make things worse by pushing the object further in and making it harder to remove. 
  • If your child is coughing loudly, there’s no need to do anything. Encourage them to carry on coughing and don’t leave them.
  • If your child’s coughing is not effective (it’s silent or they can’t breathe in properly), shout for help immediately and decide whether they’re still conscious.
  • If your child is still conscious, but they’re either not coughing or their coughing is not effective, use back blows (see below).

Back blows for babies under one year

  • Sit down and lay your baby face down along your thighs, supporting their head with your hand.
  • Give up to five sharp back blows with the heel of one hand in the middle of the back between the shoulder blades.

Back blows for children over one year

  • Lay a small child face down on your lap as you would a baby.
  • If this isn't possible, support your child in a forward-leaning position and give five back blows from behind.

If back blows don't relieve the choking and your baby or child is still conscious, give chest thrusts (see below) to infants under one year or abdominal thrusts (see below) to children over one year. This will create an artificial cough, increasing pressure in the chest and helping to dislodge the object.

Chest thrusts for children under one year

  • Lay your baby face up along the length of your thighs.
  • Find the breastbone, and place two fingers in the middle.
  • Give five sharp chest thrusts (pushes), compressing the chest by about a third.

Abdominal thrusts for children over one year

  • Stand or kneel behind your child. Place your arms under the child’s arms and around their upper abdomen.
  • Clench your fist and place it between the navel and ribs.
  • Grasp this hand with your other hand and pull sharply inwards and upwards.
  • Repeat up to five times.
  • Make sure you don't apply pressure to the lower ribcage, as this may cause damage.

Following chest or abdominal thrusts, reassess your child as follows

  • If the object is still not dislodged and your child is still conscious, continue the sequence of back blows and either chest or abdominal thrusts.
  • Call out or send for help, if you're still on your own.
  • Don't leave the child.

Even if the object has come out, get medical help. Part of the object might have been left behind, or your child might have been hurt by the procedure.

Unconscious child with choking

  • If a choking child is, or becomes, unconscious, put them on a firm, flat surface and shout for help. 
  • Call 999, putting the phone on speakerphone so your hands are free.
  • Don't leave the child at any stage.
  • Open the child's mouth. If the object is clearly visible and you can grasp it easily, then remove it.
  • Start CPR (see the St. John Ambulance advice on performing CPR on a child).

Teaching your child to stay safe

Get tips on teaching young children to stay safe, including teaching them their surname and what to do if they get lost.

Children under three can't always understand or remember safety advice, so they need to have an adult nearby at all times.

From the age of three, children can start learning how to do things safely, but will sometimes forget, especially if they're excited or distracted.

Even if they repeat your instructions back to you, they may not have understood them or be able to follow the instructions all the time.

Children copy other people. If you, your family or their friends do risky things, they'll think it's acceptable and normal.

Tell your child that if they feel uncomfortable and are being told to do something silly or dangerous, it's fine to say no. Encourage them to talk to you if this happens.

Tips on keeping your child safe

Even young children can be taught ways to help keep them safe. It's a good idea to do the following:

  • Teach your child their surname as early as you can.
  • Teach them their address as soon as they're old enough to remember it.
  • Once they're old enough to understand danger, teach them what 999 means and how to call it, especially if you're epileptic, diabetic, blind or have a condition that means they may need to call for help. You may need to teach them what the number "9" looks like.
  • Teach them to stay where they are if they get lost (for example, when you're out shopping) and to tell a mummy who has other children with them. This is safer than telling them not to talk to adults at all and risking them wandering off.

Further information on child safety

First aid kit for your baby

More than 1 million children a year are involved in an accident in the home. Most aren't serious, but it's sensible to make sure your first aid box contains the essentials.

Choose a waterproof, durable box that's easy to carry. It's much easier to take the box to the child than the child to the box. The box should have a childproof lock and be tall enough to carry bottles of lotion.

Keep the box out of the reach of children, but handy for adults. You don't want to be hunting for your first aid kit when a child is injured and frightened.

Either buy a first aid box, which is green with a white cross, or, if making up your own box, write "First Aid" on it so that, if you aren't around, other people know what it is. If someone else is caring for your children, let them know where the kit is kept.

First aid manual

An easy-to-use guide can help refresh your memory when panic and a crying child make it hard to remember what to do. Or you could print out a first aid guide and keep it with your first aid box.

Painkillers and babies

Make sure you have an age-appropriate painkiller, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, which can be used for headaches and fevers. You will also need a measuring spoon or, for younger children, a no-needle dosing syringe. Always follow the dosage instructions on the label.

Dressings for babies

Dressing for babies include:

  • sticking plasters, which you can buy in a variety of sizes for minor cuts, blisters and sore spots
  • adhesive tape, which can hold dressings in place and can also be applied to smaller cuts
  • bandages such as crepe bandages used for support or holding a dressing in place, tubular bandages are helpful when a child has strained a joint and needs extra support, triangular bandages can be used for making a sling
  • sterile gauze dressings which are good for covering larger sore areas and cuts

Antiseptic cream or spray

Antiseptic cream or spray can be applied to cuts, grazes or minor burns after cleaning to help prevent infection. Some may also contain a mild local anaesthetic to numb the pain. Antihistamine cream can reduce swelling and soothe insect bites and stings.

Thermometer

The following thermometers could be used:

  • digital thermometers which are quick to use, accurate and can be used under the armpit (always use the thermometer under the armpit with children under five), hold your child's arm against his or her body and leave the thermometer in place for the time stated in the manufacturer's instructions
  • ear (or tympanic) thermometers which are put in the child's ear and take the child's temperature in one second and don't disturb the child, but they're expensive (ear thermometers may give low readings when not correctly placed in the ear, so read the manufacturer's instructions carefully and make sure you understand how the thermometer works)
  • strip-type thermometers which you hold on your child's forehead are not an accurate way of taking their temperature, they show the temperature of the skin, not the body
  • mercury-in-glass thermometers which are no longer available to buy because they can break, releasing small shards of glass and highly poisonous mercury (if your child is exposed to mercury, get medical advice immediately)

Calamine lotion

This can help to soothe itching irritated skin, rashes (including chickenpox) and sunburn. There are gels and mousses available for chickenpox rashes as well.

Baby first aid accessories

You may need the following:

  • a pair of scissors for cutting clothes, and also plasters and tape to size
  • tweezers to remove thorns and splinters
  • ice packs or gel packs can be kept in the fridge and applied to bumps and bruises to relieve swelling, a packet of frozen peas is just as good, but wrap it in a clean tea towel before applying it to skin as direct contact with ice can cause a "cold burn"
  • saline solution and an eye bath, this is useful for washing specks of dust or foreign bodies out of sore eyes

Antiseptic wipes

Antiseptic wipes are a handy way to clean cuts and grazes and help prevent infection. To use them, take a fresh wipe and clean the wound, gently working away from the centre to remove dirt and germs.

Remember to keep your first aid box up to date. Replace items when stocks have been used and check use-by dates of all medicines. Throw away anything past its use-by date. You can take any out-of-date medicines to a pharmacy to be disposed of safely.

Car seats and child car safety

You'll need to buy a baby car seat before your baby is born. It's important to buy one that fits your car and is suitable for a newborn.

If you have your baby in hospital or a birth centre, you will need the car seat to drive your newborn home safely. It's a good idea to practise fitting the seat before your baby is born.

Tips for buying a baby car seat

  • When buying a car seat, it's best to try a few in your car before making a decision. Try to find a retailer who is willing to help you with this. Ask whether staff have been trained in fitting car seats.
  • Check whether your car has Isofix connectors built into it. These are designed to make fitting baby and child car seats simpler. Most modern family cars have them. They may be hidden in the cracks between the padding of your car seats.
  • Some car seat manufacturers have online guides showing which cars their seats will fit in. If your baby is likely to travel in another car regularly – for example, with other family members – check the car seat fits their car, too.
  • Always choose a baby or child car seat that's right for your child's current height and weight. 
  • Don't buy a secondhand car seat. It could have been damaged in an accident, and may not have all its parts, including the instructions. It may also not be the safest and most user-friendly model, plus it may not fit your car properly.
  • Only accept a car seat from friends or family if you know its history, it's not too old and it comes with instructions.
  • Think about how you will be using the car seat. If you'll be lifting your baby in and out of the car a lot, for example, you may be better off getting a lightweight seat with a base that stays in the car.
  • All car seats in this country should be EU approved. Look for the "E" mark label on the seat.

What are i-Size car seats?

i-Size is a new European safety standard for baby and child car seats. It's part of regulation ECE R129, which will eventually replace the old safety regulation R44/04. The idea is that all car seats will eventually meet the tighter i-Size safety standards.

Your car must have Isofix connectors for you to be able to use an i-Size car seat. At the moment there are only a few i-Size seats on the market in the UK and not all cars have Isofix connectors.

There's no deadline for the old regulation – and car seats – to be phased out yet, but it won't be until at least 2018.

Visit the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) child car seats website for more on i-Size car seats.

What size car seat?

Car seats are divided into three main groups, depending on your baby or child's age and weight:

  • group 0+ – rear-facing car seats suitable for babies aged up to about 15 months or who weigh up to 13 kg (29lb); some can be clipped on to a pushchair frame and are known as travel systems
  • group 1 – forward-facing seats suitable for children who weigh 9-18kg (20-40lb) or who are aged from about 9 months to 4.5 years
  • group 2/3 – high-backed booster seats suitable for children who weigh 15-36kg (33lb-5st 9lb) or are aged from about 3 to 12 years

You can also buy combination seats that cross over these groups, such as group 0+/1 seats, which are suitable from birth until your child weighs about 18kg (40lb) or is aged about 4.5. These can be more economical, but may not offer the same level of protection.

Baby or child car seat fitting

When choosing a car seat for your child or baby consider the following:

  • it's dangerous and illegal to carry a baby in a rear-facing baby seat in a front passenger seat that has an active airbag, forward-facing seats in the same position, while not illegal, are not ideal
  • it's always safer for children to travel in the back of the car
  • make sure the seat is fitted properly in the car, following the manufacturer's instructions
  • look out for safety days where experts demonstrate how to fit baby and child car seats safely, these often take place in supermarket or shopping mall car parks

Using a baby or child car seat

When using a baby or child car seat you should:

  • make sure you always put your baby into their car seat from the pavement side of the car
  • make sure your baby is securely strapped in according to the manufacturer's instructions  
  • ask the retail staff to demonstrate how to strap your baby into it when you buy your car seat
  • use a rear-facing car seat for as long as your baby fits into it, as these offer better protection in the event of a car accident

More help and advice on car seats

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