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Keeping baby safe

8-minute read

If you’re reading this because there is an emergency, then stop and call triple zero (000). The people you speak to can guide you to provide first aid.

How common are injuries around the home?

Every parent wants to keep their baby safe from harm. But it can be hard to know how to protect small children who can be most at risk. Unfortunately, studies have shown that the most common place for any injury to occur is in the home.

Each year, almost 70,000 Australian children (aged 0 to 14 years) are hospitalised and about 150 children die as a result of unintentional injuries or accidents.

What types of injuries and accidents can happen?

Injuries to children happen because of hazards — which is anything that can cause harm. The best way to avoid injury is to spot hazards and remove or make changes so a child doesn’t get hurt. Use the Kidsafe home safety checklist to help keep your home safe.

It’s impossible to guard against every hazard in every situation. However, your child will be safer and you’ll feel more relaxed if you know they’re in a safe environment. It can be very useful for parents to do a first aid course so they know what to do if their child is hurt or there is an emergency.

Most injuries to children can be grouped into categories.

Falls

Falls are the most common cause of injuries to children, though can be prevented.

Always:

  • Using a harness in a pram and high chair.
  • Supervising a child when changing their nappy, when they’re on a bed or likely to climb.
  • Placing gates or barriers at stairs.
  • Using corner protectors on tables.
  • Using rug grips and avoiding highly polished, slippery floors.

Preventing falls

Guide to preventing your baby having falls.

Drowning

Drowning is the lead cause of death for children less than 5 years of age, mostly in swimming pools.

Always:

  • Supervise children near water.
  • Never leave your baby unattended in the bath, at the beach or in a pool.
  • Learn resuscitation and take a class in first aid.
  • Cover dog bowls containing water, put the toilet lid down and don’t leave buckets of water lying around.
  • Cover ponds with a grill.

Read more about water safety for babies.

Poisoning

Children are naturally curious and don’t understand that poisons and chemicals could harm them.

Always:

  • Store poisons and chemicals in a locked cupboard.
  • Use child resistant locks on cupboards.
  • Lock away medication.
  • Store medications in their original packaging.
  • Read labels before giving any medication to your child. If in doubt, speak with a pharmacist.
  • Call the Poisons Information Hotline on 13 11 26.

Read more about medicine and poison safety in the home.

Burns and scalds

Young children can be burned and scalded very quickly. Children aged under 5 are at most risk.

Always:

  • Keep hot food and drinks away from children.
  • Use the back elements of the stove and turn pot handles inwards.
  • Use a hot water tempering device to control water temperature to a maximum of 50°C.
  • Run cold water first and last when bathing your child.
  • For burns and scalds — let cool water run over the skin for at least 20 minutes. Remove clothing immediately. Never use butter, oil or ice on the skin.

Read more about first aid for burns and scalds.

Choking and suffocation

Check your home, and wherever your child is, for small items which could cause choking.

Always:

  • Stay with your child when they’re eating.
  • Avoid giving your child hard, small pieces of food.
  • Check toys are safe and don’t contain button batteries, or small parts, such as button eyes or loose ties.
  • Keep plastic bags out of reach.
  • Tie up blind cords, or use a shortening device to keep cords at least 1600 mm above the floor.
  • Be up to date on first aid so you can provide immediate support.

Electrocution

Experts report that around 75% of the electrical injuries to children happen at home.

Always:

  • Use safety switches.
  • Unplug electrical appliances when they’re not being used.
  • Use plug-in covers for power points.
  • Avoid using a wall mounted heater in the bathroom.

Finger jams

Finger jam injuries happen when fingers are crushed in the hinge side of doors.

Always:

  • Check your child’s fingers are clear of a closing door.
  • Use a wedges or catches to keep internal doors from slamming shut.
  • Use safety strips on hinge side of doors which need to be closed.

Toys

Toys which are broken or not age appropriate can be risky.

Always:

  • Check toys regularly to make sure they’re intact.
  • Throw away toys which have become brittle or with sharp edges.
  • Choose toys which comply with the Australian Safety Standard.
  • Use toys which are sturdy and are suitable for your child’s age and stage of development.

Read more about how to choose safe toys for your child.

Dog bites

Any dog is capable of biting a child, even a loved and trusted family dog.

Always:

  • Supervise your child around animals and pets.
  • Choose a family dog which is a safer breed. Dogs which are trained to hunt, herd or shepherd are bred to specific conditions, not as domestic pets.
  • Teach your child to be respectful of dogs and not pat them unless checking first with the owner.
  • Supervise your child when they’re around a dog.

Read more about having pets in the home.

Outside the home

Always:

  • Know where your child is and who they’re with.
  • Check for hazards in your yard, garage and sheds.
  • Check play equipment for safety and that it is stable and secure.
  • Supervise your child when they’re playing outside.

Driveway

Always:

  • Take keys out of the car ignition and store them in a safe place.
  • Supervise your children when they are near a car.
  • Block access to the driveway from the house.
  • Hold your child’s hand when they are around cars.

Farm accidents

Always:

  • Store tools, chemicals and equipment in locked sheds.
  • Make silos inaccessible.
  • Lock up firearms in a safe and store ammunition separately.
  • Dress young children in bright colours so they can be easily seen.

Read more about rural safety.

How do I learn about first aid at home?

It's important to be able to quickly provide first aid to your child at home.

Keeping a first aid kit in your home and in your car means you always have easy access.

You should also take a first aid and CPR course so you feel confident about doing what you can before help arrives.

There are many organisations which run first aid courses:

Who should I contact in an emergency?

Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance if your child is not breathing, has lost consciousness or has life threatening injuries. Any emergency situation which involves a sudden illness or injury is the time to call an ambulance. Remember, your most important job in an emergency could be to ring for help.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2022


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Need more information?

Baby safety

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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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