Keeping Your Child Safe
Nothing is more important than keeping your child safe from harm. As your little one grows and begins to explore the world, you want to do everything possible to make sure that she is safe and secure.
No child escapes the minor bumps and scrapes that are just part of growing up, but unfortunately, accidents are the most common causes of childhood injuries. You can’t prevent all accidents from happening, but you can take steps to reduce the risk.
Some safety guidelines apply to all young children:
- Supervise your child closely. Watching what your child is doing and being available to step in if something is unsafe is important at any age, but especially with little ones. Many accidents happen when parents or caregivers are nearby but are distracted or busy for a few moments.
- Use a car seat for every ride. Make sure you have it installed correctly in the back seat and use it every time your child is in the car. It could save your child’s life in the event of a crash.
- No cigarette smoke. Do not allow anyone to smoke around your baby. Your home, car, and other places that your baby stays should also be smoke-free.
- Make your home safer. Make sure your home and anywhere else your baby or toddler spends time is free from hazards. Be alert for everything from unsafe cribs to chipping paint. Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors near your child’s bedroom. Check and replace batteries regularly.
- Prevent poisonings. Keep any dangerous items out of sight in a locked cabinet. Keep the number to the Poison Control Center (1-800-876-4766) near every phone and add it to your cell phone.
Learn more about top safety tips for your child’s age and stage
Babies and toddlers are at risk for some accidents and injuries at certain stages. Whether your little one is mobile or not has a lot to do with the kinds of safety concerns you need to focus on. For example:
- A baby who is learning to roll over is at risk for falls, especially from the changing table.
- Choking becomes more of a risk when your baby starts to eat solid foods.
- Once a child is walking, a whole different level of "childproofing” is important.
Read on for our top tips for keeping your little one safe and sound. We also encourage you to use our child-safety checklist to see which areas you might need to focus on to keep your child safe. As always, if you have any concerns about your child’s safety, please don’t hesitate to discuss them with your child’s doctor.
Your safety is important, too. If you are being hit, hurt, threatened, or put down by anyone at home, you and your children are at risk for other health problems. There is help available. Call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
We recommend the following top tips to help you keep your baby safe from harm:
- Back to sleep. All babies should be put to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS.) Your baby’s bassinet or crib should have a firm, flat mattress that meets safe crib specifications.
- Car seats. A car seat is a must for every ride. Is your car seat installed correctly? Call the auto safety hotline at 1-886-SEAT-CHECK to find a certified car seat installation checkup station near you. These inspections are free. If you're borrowing a car seat or have purchased a used seat, check the date on the seat to make sure it was made within the last 6 years. Older seats don't meet safety recommendations.
- Avoid cigarette smoke. Do not allow anyone to smoke around your baby. Your home, car, and other places that your baby stays should also be smoke-free. If you or your partner want to try to quit, we have programs and medications that can help.
- Prevent burns. Turn your water heater temperature down to warm or low (less than 120°F). Don't warm bottles in the microwave, as hot milk can burn your baby's mouth. Hot coffee or tea can also spill accidentally, so don’t drink hot liquids around your baby.
- Reduce the risk of falls. Even before your baby can roll over, never leave your baby alone on a bed, sofa, or changing table. Always keep one hand on your baby.
- Prevent choking. Babies can easily choke on small toys, buttons, coins, and solid food. Make sure you keep small items away from your baby and check for loose or broken parts on your baby's toys and equipment. When your baby begins to eat solid food, stick with pureed foods to start and watch your baby very closely during feedings.
- Pet safety. Never leave your child alone with any animal, even family pets. Learn to recognize signs of aggression in your pets and take action if you're concerned.
- Make your home safer. Even before your baby starts to crawl, it’s important to start “childproofing” your home. As your baby becomes mobile, it's easy for him or her to get out of your sight very quickly. If you haven't already, it's time to secure dangerous objects and start closing doors to rooms you want to keep "off limits." Use our childproofing checklist for more tips on making your home safe for your baby.
Finally, we encourage you to be prepared to handle emergencies, just in case. Consider taking an infant CPR and first aid class. Many Kaiser Permanente facilities offer them at low cost. You can search for the class nearest you.
Please note that this is not a comprehensive list of all safety hazards and recommendations. We encourage you to review our Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures handouts for additional information and resources
You're using a car seat for every ride to help keep your baby safe. But over time, your baby grows.
Straps need to be adjusted for your baby's height, and latches need to be checked regularly to ensure that your safety seat will protect your child in the event of a collision.
Keep your child in his or her rear-facing car seat, in the back seat for every ride. Your child should ride rear facing for as long as his or her seat’s height and weight limits allow, at least until age 2.
Time for a car seat checkup
You might be surprised to learn that up to 70 percent of children ride in seats that are not installed correctly. To be sure your child’s seat will protect him or her in a crash, we encourage you to get your seat checked by a professional.
Visit Seatcheck.org to find a child seat safety inspection station near you and get help installing and using child safety seats. You can also call 1-886-SEAT-CHECK to find an inspection station or to make an appointment to have your seat inspected.
Prevent Common Toddler Injuries
Toddlers are naturally active and curious, and at points they will test limits. Children this age are at risk of certain kinds of injuries. Learn more about the biggest risks and the steps to take to help keep your toddler as safe as possible, as he or she explores the world.
- Falls. As your child learns to climb, falls become more likely and more dangerous. Try to find safe places for your child to climb inside (on and off the bed, with supervision) as well as outside, such as the park. Also, once your child can climb out of his or her crib, it’s time to transition to a toddler bed.
- Drowning. Keep one hand on your child whenever he or she is near water. Never leave your child alone in the bathroom, even for a minute. If you or a neighbor has a hot tub or pool, make sure it is secured with a self-latching gate. Empty wading pools and buckets immediately after use.
- Poisoning. Keep all alcohol, cleaning products, medications, and other household poisons on a high shelf or in a locked cabinet out of your child's reach and sight. Keep the toll-free poison control center number 1-800-876-4766 and your local emergency numbers near every telephone and programmed into your cell phone.
- Choking. Avoid foods that may cause choking: whole hot dogs, nuts, chunks of meat or cheese, peanut butter, whole grapes, hard or sticky candy, popcorn, bagels, or chunks of hard, raw vegetables.
Also, be on the lookout for anything small that your child could put into his or her mouth: coins, dog food, hair pins, and small toys – the list goes on. A good guideline is that if an object fits inside a toilet paper roll, you should keep it out of your child’s reach.
- Burns. Once your child can reach higher and move faster, it’s more important than ever to be conscious about preventing burns. Turn pot handles inward on the stove. Don’t leave anything on a countertop that your child can reach: hot foods or liquids, curling irons, and hairdryers can all cause serious burns. Tell your child often that the stove, toaster, and any other appliances are a strict "don’t touch” zone.
- Street safety. Toddlers are impulsive and can sometimes dart into the street. Insist that your child hold hands anywhere near a street. Try teaching him or her to stop and stay still when you call “stop,” so that in case he or she wiggles away, you won’t have to chase. Be alert for cars backing out of driveways or turning at intersections, too, since little ones are hard to see and these kinds of accidents can be deadly.
- Pet safety. Never leave your child alone with any animal, even family pets. Learn to recognize signs of aggression and take action if you're concerned. Teach your child never to tease an animal or approach a strange animal.
Please note that this is not a comprehensive list of all safety hazards and recommendations. We encourage you to review our Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures handouts for additional information and resources.
If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder.
This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.