Accidental injury is one of the biggest killers of children in the UK. In the run-up to Child Safety Week (June 18-24), experts from the Child Accident Prevention Trust explain how taking small steps to safety can save lives.

By Lisa Salmon.

A parent's primary instinct is to protect their child, although sometimes modern life is so busy that it's tempting to cut corners when it comes to safety measures.

But it doesn't need to take a lot of time to prevent child accidents, which are one of the biggest killers of UK children.

That's why this year's Child Safety Week (June 18-24) is focusing on the theme 'small steps to safety'.

The week, which is run by the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT), aims to raise awareness of the accidents that seriously injure or kill children, and the fact that preventing them takes very little effort.

The message is particularly directed at the many busy parents who say they don't have time to even think about preventing their children having serious accidents.

"However pushed and stressed parents may be feeling, there are many simple, small steps to safety that they can take," explains Katrina Phillips, CAPT's chief executive.

"Be it putting their hot drink safely out of reach, teaching children how to cross the road safely, or strapping their child into their car seat each time, the steps to safety are small but by taking them families can make a big difference."

As well as road traffic accidents, some of the common childhood accidents are caused by falls, choking, drowning, poisoning, strangulation, suffocation and burns and scalds.

CAPT points out that nine toddlers are admitted to hospital every day because they've been badly burned, and 95% of all childhood burns and scalds happen at home.

For this reason, a cup of tea could be the most dangerous thing in your lounge, as a hot drink can scald a baby even 15 minutes after it's been made.

"Hot drink scalds are the most common cause of scald injury for young children," warns Phillips.

"You just put your hot drink down on the coffee table at the same time as your young child realises she can pull herself onto her legs for the first time, and she grabs it and pulls it all over her.

"It's horribly common."

In addition, remember that hair straighteners can get as hot as an iron, and a child can be burned if they touch them, even if they've been unplugged for as long as eight minutes.

Small steps that can help prevent such burns include simply keeping hot drinks and equipment well out of reach, and when running a bath, putting cold water in first and topping up with hot.

Some safety equipment such as thermostatic mixing valves on bath taps, and heatproof bags for hair straighteners can also help prevent burns.

Each day around 40 under-fives are rushed to hospital after choking, or swallowing something dangerous.

Food is the most likely cause, but small objects and toys can also be risky for young children, so keep small objects out of reach, stay with toddlers when they're eating and encourage them to sit still.

And because babies and toddlers will grab small objects and put them in their mouths, keep toys designed for older children, which may feature small parts, away from youngsters.

Asphyxia (which includes choking, strangling and suffocation) is the second most common cause of accidental child death in the UK, after road traffic accidents. Babies and young children will grab for strings, ribbons and cords, and get tangled in cords when climbing.

Something as simple as putting a dummy on a ribbon around a baby's neck can result in strangulation, but many young children have also been strangled after getting their neck caught in the loop of a blind cord or blind chain.

In the past two years, 11 children have died from such strangulation, including 22-month-old Josh Wakeham, who was strangled by the cord on his bedroom window blind in January.

The small steps parents can take to help prevent such tragedies include keeping dangling cords and looped objects out of reach so small children can't grab or play with the strings, and tying blind cords up well out of young children's reach. Remember that as children develop, they can climb on furniture and other objects and might reach higher than you think.

Move cots, beds, highchairs and playpens away from looped blind cords and chains, and try to move other furniture away from blind cords too. And if you're buying new blinds, look for those with no cords or concealed cords.

"Tying up blind cords to remove that risk from very curious children who can get horribly entangled is a vital safety step," says Phillips.

She points out that parents have to be aware of the next developmental stage their child is coming to, so they can stay one step ahead and be prepared for when a child becomes more mobile and can reach higher things.

"Often, accidents happen when parents are taken by surprise and didn't realise their child could do something," she warns.

"There are so many very simple, small steps that can be taken by parents and carers that keep children safer from potentially very serious injury, but don't feel like they're huge leaps to take.

"By building small steps to safety into your everyday routine, safety habits will become second nature and not forgotten."

She adds: "If an accident happens, there's that terrible sense of guilt even when parents aren't at fault. They think 'if only I'd done that' - and the truth is, it really wouldn't have taken much time to do it and potentially stop something horrible, or even fatal, happening to their child."

:: For more information about ways to keep children safer, visit the Child Accident Prevention Trust website at Ask the expert Q: "My eight-year-old son still wets himself at night. Is it likely to be something he'll grow out of, or do I need to get some help for him?"

A: Eileen Jacques, information and helpline Manager at ERIC, the charity that helps children and families with wetting and soiling problems, says: "Bedwetting affects up to half a million children in the UK every night. There's some truth in the suggestion that children may grow out of it, as becoming dry at night is part of a child's normal development which is influenced by heredity. Some children simply become dry at night later than others.

"There are three main reasons why childhood bedwetting occurs. These include not yet developing the right levels of the hormone vasopressin to help concentrate urine overnight, not receiving the signal sent from the bladder to the brain to wake up to empty the bladder, and the muscles of an overactive bladder contracting during sleep.

"Because bedwetting occurs during sleep your son isn't aware it's happening and has no conscious control over it - he can't simply decide not to wet anymore.

"A bedwetting alarm can help many children overcome bedwetting, and if it's not suitable there are some prescription medicines that can help.

"As soon as your son is ready to become dry at night you can seek help from your local bedwetting clinic. Your GP or school nurse will be able to refer you to the nearest clinic.

"A recent survey from ERIC revealed that 60% of families wait over a year before seeking help for childhood continence problems like bedwetting. We have launched the Stop The Issue Ballooning campaign to encourage families to get help early on. There's no need to put up with bedwetting if it's becoming a problem in your family, help is available."

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