Accident is one of the major causes of injury, disability or death in children. The Child Fatality Review Panel Report (2013) found that, among the 238 child death coroner’s cases reviewed in 2008-09, 9.7% of children died of accidents with 40% occurred at home setting and 30% of them being five years old or under. The causes of their deaths include fall, poisoning and hanging. According to the Injury Survey 2008 by Department of Health, children aged 0-4 years had the highest proportion of sustaining three or more injury episodes (12.4%) as compared with those of other age groups.
Why home accidents happen in children?
Babies under one are vulnerable and are totally dependent in protecting themselves. From one to five years of age, children become more curious, energetic and explorative. They often put their hands on everything and are on the move. They like to imitate acts of others but lack judgment on dangers around them. If parents lack the alertness to home accident traps and have no home safety precautions, or overlook the risk of leaving a child exposed to potential home accidents even for a brief time, accidents would happen.
How to prevent home accidents?
Parents and child caregivers should have a better understanding of children’s developmental characteristics to evaluate children’s ability on safety alertness. Other than paying attention to safety in our work environment where children visit, we should remind parents how to make their home child-proof (Chinese version only) and never leave children unattended at home. With alertness and precautions, most accidents can be avoided. Child-related professionals can educate parents and children by making use of leaflets and exhibition boards (Chinese version only) borrowed from Central Health Education Unit, Department of Health.
Parents and child-related professionals need to talk about safety to children to reduce the chances of accidents. This can be done through home safety quiz, pretend play, or asking children to repeat 3 to 5 safety rules briefed when visiting a novel site.
You may find other information useful:
- Home Safety for Young Children video
(Cantonese version with English subtitles)
- Common home accidents:
Newborn to 1 year related leaflet 1 to 3 years related leaflet 3 to 5 years related leaflet
- Teaching materials on accident prevention from Hong Kong Child Health Foundation
Sudden Infant death Syndrome (SIDS), or cot death, is the sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of a baby in the first year, usually during sleep, with unknown cause. Taking appropriate precautions can reduce the risk of SIDS.
As young children are curious and like to imitate adults, childhood poisoning is another common accident at home. Moreover, common medications used at home such as paracetamol can also cause accidental poisoning. Parents must pay extra attention to its use.
Parents and child-related professionals need to exercise home safety precautions as well as knowing how to reduce the degree of accidental injuries. Having a first-aid kit at home and child care centres is essential to treat minor injuries. Parents and child-related professionals should also equip with first-aid skills to protect children in emergency. The Resource Centre of the Hong Kong Children Injury Prevention and Research Association website also provides information on home injury prevention and first aid (Chinese version only).
Temporary child care can be useful to parents at the time they need a helping hand. Parents can be introduced to occasional child care service, mutual help child care centres or Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project.