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This topic suggests ways to help
prevent illness and accidental injuries in young children. It does not cover
every risk that a child faces, but it does cover many of the most common
hazards and situations that can be dangerous to children ages 2 to 5
Children in this age range are gaining many new skills, and they feel
more and more independent. They may be curious, want to explore the world
around them, and act without thinking.
At this age, children see everything that happens as it relates to themselves. And they believe that what they wish for or expect to happen can affect what really happens. They overestimate what is
in their control, which contributes to their vulnerability. They are often
unaware of the consequences of their actions. This can lead to dangerous
You can help decrease any dangers by accepting that your child will go through active and
curious phases. Think about what you can do to
avoid safety hazards. If your child is discovering the joys of riding a
tricycle, for example, be sure to make riding in the street off-limits.
You can also find behaviors to teach and model. For example, if you wash your hands before eating, you child will probably also do this.
Remember that no one can watch a child's every move or make a
home 100% safe all the time. Try to find a balance for supervising your
child, taking safety precautions, and allowing your child to explore. Learn all you can about child growth and
development. Doing so can help you learn how to respond to and make a positive impact on how your child behaves.
child is gaining in confidence and probably wants to explore. But your child
still needs your close supervision and guidance. You can:
Taking care of yourself is a vital part of keeping your child safe. Most
injuries to children happen when parents or caregivers are tired, hungry, or
emotionally drained or are having relationship problems. Other common causes of
family stress include changes in daily routines, moving to a new house, or
expecting another child.
If you feel over-stressed, get help. Talk with your
doctor or your child's doctor, or see a counselor. Find support from family and friends, or join a parenting group.
Call 911 right away if you feel you are about to hurt yourself or your child.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Learning about health and safety issues:
Protection against harmful germs:
The importance of parental self-care:
You can prevent most cases of food poisoning by being careful when you prepare and store food. Wash your hands and working surfaces while preparing food, cook foods to safe temperatures, and refrigerate foods promptly. Be especially careful when you cook or heat perishable foods, such as eggs, meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, milk, and milk products.
To help prevent food poisoning:
For more information, see the topic
Food Poisoning and Safe Food Handling.
occur at any time of year. These upper respiratory infections (URIs) spread easily. Take extra precautions to help protect your child
against these and other viral and bacterial infections.
well-child appointments. During these visits, the
You can help
protect your child from accidents and injuries by taking general safety
measures around your home. Think ahead about what potentially dangerous
situations will attract your child. Supervise your child, but keep in mind that constant hovering over children can limit their experiences
and confidence. Balancing supervision with safety precautions will help prevent
accidents and injuries as well as allow children to explore.
following are common accidents and injuries that can occur around the house,
and some suggestions on how to prevent them.
Preventing falls isn't always easy.
Toddlers and young children often move quickly. Their excitement about their
mobility and their lack of experience can make them unaware of dangers, such as
stairs or hills. Children ages 4 to 5 years anticipate many dangers,
but they may not have the physical skills to avoid accidents. Some ways to help prevent falls are to:
Children ages 2 to 5
years can easily choke on everyday objects and food. Your child needs your
supervision even though he or she may be able to eat independently.
household items can strangle a young child. Make sure that loose cords, objects, and
furniture don't pose strangling risks.
Suffocation is another danger for young children. Teach
your child about suffocation and the importance of a safe play area. Pay
attention to possible suffocation dangers, such as:
Gun and firearm safety measures should be established for all households and especially those
where children live or visit. Keep all guns and firearms in a locked
area, unloaded, and out of reach of children. Also, store knives (even kitchen
knives), swords, and other weapons safely out of reach.
Teach children how to interact with pets. Teach them to never tease animals or bother them while they are eating. Explain that animals can sometimes hurt you. Also be sure to train your own
pets and keep them healthy.
Children younger than 5 years of age die
from drowning more than any other age group.1 Help
prevent drowning by following these tips:
In addition to these precautions, learn first aid and
CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Knowing these
skills can make the difference between life and death in an emergency
situation. For more information, see the topic
Dealing With Emergencies.
You can't protect
your child from every danger that he or she can possibly encounter outside the home.
But you can equip your child with some basic safety rules and precautions. Let
your child's natural surroundings give you
ideas for general training to help prepare
your child for a variety of situations he or she may face.
avoid accidents, injuries, and unsafe situations outside the home, establish
and review basic rules before outings. Reinforce the rules often. And let other caregivers know about them.
Before your child visits an unfamiliar home, ask whether
you need to be aware of any dangerous areas, weapons in the home, pets, or
other safety issues. Also, it is always a good idea to see the household
for yourself. Don't be afraid to voice any concerns you have about safety. You
are ultimately responsible for protecting your child.
Before enrolling your child in
day care, evaluate the environment and talk with the care providers.
Ask questions about their safety guidelines. Identify any hazards, and ask
how they are handled. For more information, see the topic
Choosing Child Care.
parents and caregivers want to share their favorite activities with their young
children. This can help build common interests and appreciation for exercise
and other pursuits. Be sure, though, to recognize the safety issues related to
these activities. Remember that your child's comfort and safety are most
Taking care of yourself is a vital part of keeping your child safe.
Although accidents can occur at any time, many happen during times of excess
stress, such as when:
signs of stress and what situations cause it. Be extra vigilant during these
times. Take care of yourself and your
information, see the topic
Stress Management and/or use the Interactive Tool: What Is Your Stress Level?
All parents have times when they feel
exhausted, frustrated, angry, sad, or overwhelmed. This is a
normal part of being human and a parent. But if these feelings become too much
for you to handle alone, keep your child safe by
getting help. For example, when your emotions are too
much for you to handle alone, you may not have the energy or desire to watch
your child as closely as you should. And some parents injure their children when
their emotions cause them to shake, hit, or push them.
Call 911 right away if you feel that you are about to injure yourself or
Places to go for help include:
For more information on physical harm to children, see
For more information on
handling difficult emotions, see the topic:
This American Academy of Pediatrics website has information for parents about childhood issues, from before the child is born to young adulthood. You'll find information on child growth and development, immunizations, safety, health issues, behavior, and much more.
National Safety Council (2009). Water safety. National Safety Council Fact Sheet. Available online: http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/resources/documents/water_safety.pdf.
Other Works Consulted
Bunik M, et al. (2012). Ambulatory and office pediatrics. In WW Hay et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 21st ed., pp. 231–253. New York: McGraw-Hill.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Keeping your child safe. In SP Shevlov et al., eds., Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 457–506. New York: Bantam.
Collins CL, et al. (2007). Children plus all nonautomobile motorized vehicles (not just all-terrain vehicles) equals injuries. Pediatrics, 120(1):134–141.
Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2002, reaffirmed 2005). Policy statement: Skateboard and scooter injuries. Pediatrics, 109(3): 542–543.
Kendrick D, et al. (2007). Home safety education and
provision of safety equipment for injury prevention. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1).
Rivara FP, Grossman DC (2011). Injury control. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 17–25. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Window Covering Safety Council (accessed August 2012). Basic cord safety. Available online: http://www.windowcoverings.org/about-2.
November 26, 2012
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
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