Having a toddler is the age you really do need eyes everywhere! Toddlers are fast, strong-willed, stubborn, headstrong and completely devoid of any form of risk awareness; a potentially lethal and truly exhausting combination.
Your toddler will have boundless energy, a total lack of awareness of the consequences of their actions and a toddler’s little fingers they can poke into just about anything.
Characteristics of one to three year-olds:
- A toddler remains head heavy, with large heads compared to the rest of their body.
- Thin, delicate skin.
- Flexible bones that are still developing and growing.
- Sufficient dexterity to remove screw tops, open door handles and climb to get things that are out of reach.
- A short attention span.
- An inability to gauge exactly where sound is coming from and therefore identify possible danger from oncoming traffic etc.
By fourteen months:
- They may be able to walk without help and possibly run.
- They may be able to crawl upstairs.
- They can cause havoc with your cooker, TV or anything else that is appealing. They often become obsessed with knobs, dials and switches and are very good at posting things through gaps or poking things in spaces.
When my son was little, we searched high and low for the knobs from our cooker, only to find them posted down the back of the sofa! He could so easily have choked on them, so be vigilant.
By two years:
- Still put everything in their mouth.
- Explore the taste, smell and texture of objects and may put objects in any orifice!
- Will begin to copy adult behaviour.
- Can open taps and screw tops.
Most common accidents:
- Falls from windows, down stairs, from balconies, highchairs, buggies and off furniture.
- Injuries from falling furniture or bookshelves as they reach or climb to get something attractive.
- Suffocation from plastic bags and packaging.
- Choking, particularly on food, but also small toys, coins and sweets.
- Be particularly careful with blind cords, clothing, necklaces and drawstring bags on doors, hooks, handles or over cots.
- Poisoning from dishwasher tablets, cleaning products or pills.
- Burns and scalds from hot drinks, bath water, sunburn, radiators, hair-styling appliances, irons, oven doors and fireplaces.
- Drowning in the bath, swimming pools, ponds, buckets and the sea.
- Cuts, bruises, crushed or amputated fingers and bumped heads.
The paramedics in my team have told me about an alarming rise in the number of injuries resulting from overloaded buggies. The issue arises when there’s a child in the buggy and a child on a buggy board at the back, as well as shopping hanging on the handles. If the child in the buggy suddenly gets up, the buggy is catapulted backwards and the child on the back will whack their head hard on the floor behind. Don’t hang shopping off the handles as it can cause the buggy to tip.
Safety tips for this age group:
Toddlers fall over repeatedly, run into things and stand up underneath things. They seem to be obsessed with everything inappropriate and potentially dangerous.
Stair gates can be helpful, but be careful as your toddler gets older; they may start to see them as a challenge that encourages them to try and climb them or play with the catches, and this can be dangerous. Safety gates are not recommended for children over 24 months, but judge the situation based on your own child – remove the gate or change its position as soon as your child can climb or open it. Fitting the gate on the landing or bedroom door can be a safer option than at the top of the stairs. Parents should be careful with safety gates too as we frequently see accidents due to parents trying to climb the gates.
Children this age are naturally inquisitive and will climb on anything, so be careful of pot plants and chairs by windows and on balconies. Every year we hear of miracle escapes when a child has fallen from a block of flats or out of a top floor window – sadly not every child is so lucky.
The Child Accident Prevention Trust has recommendations on safe gap widths for open windows and the spacing for balcony railings and stair banisters. 6.5cm (2.5”) is recommended until 18 months. A larger gap of 10cm (4”) has been introduced for 18 months and older as most children’s chest widths exceeds 10cm so they’re unlikely to be able to squeeze through anything this size.
- Secure furniture – particularly bookcases, chest of drawers and TVs – to the wall. They can easily topple and crush a child if they’re climbing up them.
- Always supervise children when eating. Chop fruit and vegetables, particularly grapes and avoid chopping into neat circles which can fully obstruct the airway if they get stuck.
- Keep small objects out of reach of children and ensure you adhere to the recommended ages for toys.
- Keep scissors, knives and razors well out of reach.
Button batteries are a particular risk for children this age as they tend to put anything in their mouths.
Button batteries and lithium coin batteries are small, round, batteries you find in toys, cards, watches, key fobs and numerous other everyday objects.
Lithium coin batteries are particularly concerning as they can burn through tissue and blood vessels within hours. Often parents are oblivious to the fact that their child has swallowed the battery and the first symptom they are aware of is their child vomiting blood. Sadly, this is often too late to save the child as irreparable damage has already occurred.
Sometimes, button batteries do pass through the body without a problem. However, if a battery gets stuck, energy from the battery creates corrosive caustic soda and it is this that burns through tissues.
If children pop a battery up their nose or in their ear, this can also result in lasting damage.
Prevention and vigilance is key:
- Always check battery compartments are securely fastened.
- If a battery is missing and you think your child may have swallowed it, take them to A&E for an x-ray.
- Store and dispose of batteries carefully, out of children’s reach and sight.
If you think your child may have swallowed a button battery – act fast!
Take them to your nearest Accident and Emergency department immediately.
- Do not wait for signs or symptoms
- Do not try to make them sick
- Do not give them anything to eat or drink
Your toddler will be x-rayed and, if necessary, be taken for an operation as soon as possible to remove the battery.
Other tips to protect your toddler
- Try and prevent your toddler accessing the bathroom or loo alone as this is often where tablets and loo cleaner are found. Children often like playing and flushing things down the loo.
- Be careful to keep things both out of sight and out of reach. Poisoning is a particular problem at this age. Children are incredibly inquisitive and will eat or drink anything they fancy. Child-resistant packaging is not childproof and only slows them down a bit. Be careful around the house and garden too; particularly as seasons change, the garden becomes a new area to explore and a place to find unexpected hazards!
- Discourage children from eating any plants in the garden or countryside.
- Also be extremely careful when visiting other people, particularly grandparents, who may put their medication in obvious places so that they remember to take it. The contents of Granny’s handbag, or that of any visitor, could prove lethal too!
- Make sure you fit, and regularly test, carbon monoxide alarms.
- Keep hot drinks out of reach and remember that a drink made 15 minutes previously can still burn a child even if it’s at drinking temperature for an adult.
- Use a kettle with a short flex, and put pans at the back of the cooker. Be careful not to inadvertently encourage children into dangerous behaviour by drawing up a chair for them to stand on and reach the cooker. Consider putting a safety gate to restrict access to the kitchen when cooking.
- Fit a thermostatic mixing valve to bathroom taps to prevent heat surges if another tap is used. Put cold water into the bath first.
- Always apply appropriate sun cream (re-apply after swimming), cover up and keep children out of midday sun.
- Use fireguards and radiator covers. Switch off heated towel rails as they become incredibly hot and are usually at child height. Children don’t necessarily know to let go if they are burning. Keep irons, hair straighteners and any other hot appliances and their cords well out of reach.
- Never leave children unattended in the bath or near water even for a second. Children can drown in a couple of centimetres of water. Always empty water play immediately after use. Cover water butts and garden bins. Be extremely vigilant at swimming pools, around ponds and at the beach.
- Children this age are prone to poking their little fingers into hinges and around doors and often crushed fingers and even amputations result. Door stops and hinge strips are helpful in avoiding these injuries.
- Keep children clear of the buggy when it is being folded and don’t let them play with bike chains.
One of my friends was in hospital having her second baby. Her husband was at home with their toddler and they were just preparing to go out. He went to open out the buggy; put his foot on the bottom to push down and did not realise that his toddler’s finger was in the mechanism. The little boy’s finger came off! Little fingers and toes can be amputated in anything with a hinge. Keep clear of bicycle chains too.
- Children should not be left alone in cars, even when strapped in. When travelling in cars, they should be in a car seat appropriate to their weight. It may be prudent to fit a play tray to their car seat and have toys available to distract them from trying to fiddle with the clip and attempting to release themselves from their car seat. Ensure child locks are activated on the cars to prevent them accidentally opening the door.
First Aid for Life
First Aid for Life and onlinefirstaid.com provide this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made or actions taken based on this information. The best way to be prepared for action in an emergency is to attend a practical first aid course or do one online.