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Our Baby's First Two Years
by Robert M. Selig, M.D., FAAP & Joann C. Cozza, D.O., FAAP

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Did you know that accidents are the greatest threat to the life and health of your child?  More school-age children die of injuries than all other diseases combined.  Yet you can prevent most major injuries!

Did you know that nearly 300 children under 4 years old die every month in the United States because of accidents - most of which can be prevented!

Often, accidents happen because parents are not aware of what their children can do. Children learn fast, and before you know it, your child will be jumping, running, riding a tricycle, and using tools.  Your child is at special risk for injuries from falls, drowning, poisons, burns, and car acci­dents.  Your child doesn't understand dangers or remember 'No' while playing and exploring.

At age 5, your child is learning to do many things that can cause serious injury, such as riding a bicycle or crossing a street.  Although children learn fast, they still cannot judge what is safe.  You must protect your child.  You can prevent common major injuries by taking a few simple steps.

At age 6, your child will become more independent.  He or she will be able to do more things that are dangerous. Your child will try to prove that he or she is grown up.  But children still aren't good at judging sound, distance, or the speed of a moving car at this age.  Your child can learn a few simple things to do for protection, but you must still be in charge of his or her safety.

At age 8, children are now taking off on their own.  They look to friends for approval.  They try to do daring things.  They do not want to obey grown-up rules.  But your child can learn safety rules with your help and reminders.  Your child now goes out more without you and is more likely to drown, or be hurt on a bike, or be hit by a car.  And your child can still be hurt or killed while riding in a car if he/she is not buckled by a seat belt.

At age 10, children will do more things away from home.  They will spend more time on a bike or in a car and will not see the need for adults to watch over them.  You must take charge; you must remind your child of safety!  It takes only a few steps to prevent major, common injuries.


Bicycle Safety


Be sure that the bicycle is the right size for your child and don't allow him/her to ride double.  A youngster with a bike must learn the rules of the road as well as respect for traffic officers and their directions.  Teach your child to keep to the right in traffic, and never ride against the traffic.  At dusk and at night, the bicycle should have proper lights and reflectors and your child should wear reflective clothing.  Shoes should be worn during riding.

Make it an absolute rule:  NO BIKE HELMET, NO BIKE!!   Never accept any excuses from your child for not wearing their helmet.  Serious head trauma can result if your child falls or is knocked off their bike by a car.  Your child's helmet may be the difference between life and death!




The kitchen can be a dangerous place for your child when you are cooking.  If your child is under foot, hot liquids, grease, and hot foods can spill on him or her and cause serious burns.  Find something safe for your child to do while you are cooking.

Remember that kitchen appliances and other hot surfaces such as irons and wall heaters can burn your child long after you have finished using them.

If your child does get burned, immediately put cold water on the burned area. Then cover the burn loosely with a bandage or clean cloth.  Call your doctor for all burns.  To protect your child from scalds, reduce the temperature of your hot water heater to between 120 degrees F and 130 degrees F.

Test the batteries on your smoke alarm every month to be sure that they work.  Change the batteries every year on your child's birthday.


Eye Safety


It is estimated that 90% of eye injuries could be prevented.  In homes, sharp objects and harmful chemicals must be kept out of reach of small children.  Older children should be taught to use protective eyewear when hammering and using power tools . The most common eye injury associated with lawn mowing is to young male bystanders, so they too should wear protective glasses.  BB guns and fireworks should be used only under adult supervision, if at all.

Appropriate eye protection should be encouraged in all racquet sports, baseball, hockey, soccer, and lacrosse.  In school, eye protection should be required in laboratories and in shop classes.  Children who have decreased best-corrected vision in one eye (less visual acuity than required to obtain an unrestricted drivers license) should be encouraged to wear safety glasses to protect the better-seeing eye.




Because the abilities of your child are so great now, he or she will find an end­less variety of dangerous situations at home and in the neighborhood.

Your child can fall off play equipment, a bicycle, out of windows, down stairs, and off anything that can be climbed on.  Be sure the surface under play equipment is soft enough to absorb a fall.  Use a rubber mat, 12 inches of sand, saw dust, or wood chips underneath play equipment.

Lock the doors to any dangerous areas.  Use gates on stairways and install window guards above the first floor.  Fence in the play yard.  If your child has a serious fall, call your doctor.


Fire Safety


Make an escape plan in case of fire in your home.  Your fire department can tell you how.  Teach your child what to do when the smoke alarm rings.  Practice what you and your child would do if you had a fire.

Do not smoke in your home.  Most home fires are caused by a lit cigarette that has not been put out completely.

Test the batteries on your smoke alarm every month to be sure that they work.  Change the battetries every year on your child's birthday.


Firearm Hazards


Children in homes where guns are present are in more danger of being shot by themselves, their friends, or family members than injured by an intruder.  It is best to keep all guns out of the home.  If you must keep a gun, keep it unloaded and in a locked place separate from the ammunition.  Handguns are especially dangerous.




By age 2, your child will be able to open any drawer and climb anywhere curiosity leads.  Your child may swallow anything he or she finds.  Use only household products and medicines that are absolutely necessary and keep them safely capped and out of sight and reach.

If your child does put something poisonous in style='font-family: Arial'> his or her mouth, call your Poison Center or doctor immediately.  Attach your Poison Center number to your phone.  Have syrup of ipecac on hand to make your child vomit, but use it only if you are told to do so by the Poison Center or your doctor.


Sports Safety


Ask your doctor which sports are right for your child.  By age 8-10, your child may be playing baseball, soccer, or other sports. Be sure your child wears the protective equipment made for that sport, such as shin pads, mouth guards, and helmets. Your child's coach should be able to help you select protective equipment.

In all sports, your child must learn the rules, have the proper equipment and keep it in good condition. Teach the rules of boating and cycling safety.  Ice skating and other water sports should always be closely supervised.




Be sure your child wears a protective helmet, wrist guards, and elbow and knee pads.


Street Safety


Never let your child play near the street. Begin to teach your child safe street habits. Your child is in danger of being hit by a car if he or she darts out into the street while playing.  Take your child to the playground or park to play.  Show your child the curb and teach him or her to always stop at the curb and never cross the street without a grown-up. Teach your child to look to the left, to the right, and back to the left again.


Water Safety


By age 5, it is the time to teach your child to swim.  Even if your child knows how to swim, never let him or her swim alone.

Do not let your child play around any water (lake, stream, pool, or ocean) unless an adult is watching.  NEVER let your child swim in canals or any fast-moving water.

Teach your child to never to dive into water unless an adult has checked the depth of the water.  And when on any boat, be sure your child is wearing a life vest.


Adapted from The American Academy of Pediatrics



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