By Sheila Merrill, public health adviser at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
Our kitchens are where we spend a lot of our time cooking up a storm for family, friends and loved ones, but have you ever considered the fact that the most serious accidents happen in the kitchen, with children the most at risk?
Exploring is part of growing up, but young children have little concept of potential dangers and up to the age of four have the most accidents in the home. RoSPA would therefore like to encourage parents, grandparents and carers to start looking around their home, particularly the kitchen, from a child’s viewpoint; get down on the floor to help spot hazards, such as a scalding cup of coffee left precariously on a work surface. Is it out-of-reach of little one’s hands? Or could it be pulled over?
Kitchens are often the heart of the home, but they also harbour hidden dangers. I will aim to talk you through a list of checkpoints to help keep children safe – perhaps you might like to share the information with your friends and family?
Burns and scalds
Recovery from a burn or a scald can be long and painful and can leave permanent scarring.
Hot drinks cause most scalds to children under the age of five. A child’s skin is much more sensitive than an adult’s and a hot drink can still scald a child 15 minutes after being made.
It is worth remembering that children can also suffer burns after contact with open fires, cookers, cigarettes, matches, cigarette lighters and many other hot surfaces. Part of growing up is to watch and copy what others do. Unfortunately this can include children copying adults using matches. Be aware that an inquisitive child could innocently set fire to your home by playing with matches, so keep them hidden and out of reach.
So what can you do to help reduce the risk?
- Never hold a hot drink and a child at the same time
- Put hot drinks out of reach and away from the edges of tables and worktops
- Encourage the use of a coiled flex or a cordless kettle
- Keep small children out of the kitchen whenever possible
- Always use rear hotplates first and turn the panhandles away from the front of the cooker
- Put matches and lighters out of the sight and reach of children.
We often store chemical items such as laundry detergents in our kitchen. These are poisonous substances and very dangerous if they come into contact with a child.
Small children may mistake liquid capsule-style dishwasher and washing machine detergents for toys or sweets. These are not only a danger in relation to ingestion but can also cause serious irritation to the eyes.
RoSPA has been made aware of cases involving young children who have been injured after biting into or placing colourful liquitab detergents in their mouths. We were also recently alerted to cases in which children were admitted to hospital in Glasgow as a result of the ingestion of liquid detergent from capsules. In addition to children swallowing detergent, doctors have also previously raised awareness of the risk of injury to young children who get liquid detergent in their eyes.
If children are affected by chemical products then medical treatment should be immediately sought.
Both the kitchen and the bathroom are the likeliest places for accidental poisoning from household cleaning products.
- Closely supervise children in and around the home if you are using cleaning products
- Keep household chemicals out of sight and reach of children, preferably in a locked cupboard. Remember this also applies to the garage and shed
- Always store household cleaning chemicals in their original containers – never decant them into other containers, particularly drinks bottles
- Replace lids and put all products away immediately after use
- Dispose of unwanted household cleaning products safely
- Store household cleaning products in a different place from food and medicine
- Use household cleaning products according to label directions
- Mixing household products can cause dangerous gases to form.
Children can also be poisoned by medications. Here’s some of my top safety tips:
- Wherever possible, buy products in child resistant containers
- Keep all medications out of sight and reach of children, preferably in a locked cupboard
- Dispose of unwanted medication safely
- Replace lids and put away immediately after use
- Avoid keeping medication in handbags.
I hope this information has been helpful and of interest to you. You can find out further home safety-related advice here.