Self-care, children

Child safety

Säkerhet för barn - engelska

Children develop fast and explore the world around them. In order for a child to be able to develop in a safe and secure environment, it is necessary to think about how you can prevent accidents from happening in different situations: in the home, in or near water, when riding in a car or playing outdoors.

This brochure is about child safety, and it gives you advice and hints concerning the safety of children aged from new‐born to about six years old. If you have more questions about child safety, you can ask the staff at your child care centre (barnavårdscentral).

Läs texten på svenska här.

When a child explores the world

Children use their bodies and senses to explore the world around them. That is how they develop. Theyexplore the world by moving around, feeling and tasting things, climbing and running, and by copyingother children and adults. Watching a child develop is fascinating but there are different risks associatedwith different ages.

Children develop at different speeds and sometimes things change fast. Suddenly, your child may beable to move about in a way you have not seen before, or grab hold of things that you thought were outof reach. It takes time for children to learn how to control their bodies and understand consequences.Therefore, you must help them by assessing risks and preventing accidents so they can test their abilitiesin a safe environment.

Avoid the risk of falls

The most common accident among small children is that they fall from changing tables, beds, sofas, prams or other heights. Even new‐born babies sometimes manage to move about when they cry or wriggle. Never leave a child unsupervised on a changing table, bed or other high surface.

On the changing table

The safest way to change a nappy is on a soft changing mat on the floor. Never walk away from a child on a changing table. Always keep one hand on the child when he/she is lying on the changing table, for example, if you are stretching to reach something. Then you will feel if the child moves about and you can prevent a fall.

The safest place for small children to sleep is in their own bed

Children up to the age of three months sleep most safely in their own cot. The cot must have a cot protector so that the baby’s arms or legs cannot get stuck in the rails.

Children who cannot yet roll over by themselves must sleep on their backs since there is a greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome if they lie on their sides or, especially, on their fronts. Make sure there are no blankets or quilts in front of the child’s face so as to ensure his/her breathing is completely unrestricted. It is good to let children have a dummy while they sleep since that can also reduce somewhat the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Lower the base of the cot once the child is able to stand up so that the child cannot climb over the side and fall down.

Keep baby bouncers on the floor

Read the instructions for the baby bouncer to find out which ages it can be used for. The instructions will also state the maximum weight of the child. Place the baby bouncer on the floor when the child is sitting in it. Fasten the safety strap so that thechild cannot fall out of the baby bouncer. Do not put the baby bouncer on soft and unstable surfaces likea bed or a sofa, nor on a table or a chair. You should not carry the baby bouncer around when the childis sitting in it. If it tips over or you drop it, the child can get hurt.Children who are not yet able to sit by themselves should only sit in a baby bouncer for short periods oftime since their backs are not strong enough to hold up their bodies.

Baby slings must be properly adjusted

If you use a baby sling or baby carrier, follow the product instructions. Adjust it so the child sits comfortably and there is no risk of him/her sliding out of it.

Use a safety strap on a highchair

Always supervise a child sitting in a highchair. Lift the child out of the highchair if you cannot keep aneye on him/her. If the highchair has a safety strap, use it. It prevents a child who is able to stand up from falling. It is good if the highchair is a snug fit so that the child cannot stand up and fall out. Sometimes children can brace their feet against the table and try to tip the highchair over. If the highchair is unsteady, there is a risk it will fall backwards. Many highchairs have a special clasp that canbe attached to the table so that they cannot tip over.

Check the pram regularly

Check regularly that the pram’s brakes are working. They can get worn down over time. Also check that all parts of the pram’s undercarriage are attached in the correct way so that it cannot fold down unexpectedly. The bed or seat must be properly attached to the undercarriage before the baby is laid or seated in the pram.You should use the bed until the child is able to sit up by itself. Once the child’s back is strong enough so he/she can sit up unassisted, you can change to the seat. It is good to use a harness in the pram so thatthe child cannot fall out. It is advisable to have reflectors on the pram, especially in winter, since they make the pram more visible in traffic.

Put gates up by stairs

If you have stairs in the home, it is necessary to fit gates, both downstairs and upstairs. Check regularly that the gates are properly attached. Also check that the distance between the steps in a staircase is not so wide so that the child can get stuck or fall between them. Make sure the child cannot climb over the banister.

Put safety catches on windows and balcony doors

Make sure children cannot open windows, balcony or veranda doors so they cannot fall out. Use a safetycatch whenever you open a window for fresh air. Keep doors locked or have special catches on them sothat children cannot open them by themselves.

Fix heavy furniture to the wall

Furniture can tip over if children start to climb on them. To prevent accidents, you should attach chests of drawers, bookshelves and televisions to the wall. This can be done using special furniture catches.

Avoid the risk of choking

One of the biggest risks for children is objects getting stuck in their airways so they cannot breathe. Once small children have learned how to grab hold of objects, they often put them in their mouths. That is how they explore and understand the world around them. The best way to prevent choking accidentsis to ensure the child cannot get hold of small objects.

Small objects can get stuck in the airways

Here are some examples of objects that can get stuck in the child’s airways:

  • Pieces of food or fruit
  • Nuts
  • Sweets
  • Small toys
  • Small stones
  • Small round batteries
  • Hard animal feed.

Pull at dummies and feeding bottle teats

Pull the rubber teats on dummies and feeding bottles now and again to make sure they do not come off.Also check the child has not bitten or chewn on the rubber teat. Loose parts can go down the throat andget stuck in the airways. Throw broken dummies away and replace them with new ones.

Teach the child to sit down when eating

Food that gets stuck in the airways can cause serious accidents. Children of all ages should always sitdown when eating so food does not get stuck in their throats. Never allow children to run around withfood in their mouths. Adapt the consistency of food in accordance with what the child can handle and chew. Avoid giving children food when they are travelling in a car since the motion of the car may make thefood get stuck in the throat.

Test the size of small objects

The Swedish Consumer Agency (Konsumentverket) has a small object cylinder. The cylinder is approximately the same size as a three‐year‐old’s throat. If an object is small enough to fit inside the cylinder, it can get stuck in a child’s throat so you should keep it away from the child. Small balls, marbles and other round objects should have a diameter of at least five centimetres so there is no risk of them blocking the airways.You can ask for a small object cylinder at your child care centre or the consumer adviser in the municipality where you live.

String can get stuck around the neck

Take care with objects that children can place around their necks or over their faces which may restricttheir breathing. Some examples are:

  • plastic bags
  • scarves
  • ropes or nooses
  • the strings of window blinds and curtains.

Jumpers and jackets with hoods can imply a risk of suffocation for the child if the hood gets caught onsomething, so it is good if the hood is attached with press buttons which would pop open if the child got caught somewhere; for instance, on a climbing frame.

Take care in the kitchen

There are many sharp and hot objects in a kitchen which you must keep an eye on.

  • Keep knives and scissors out of the reach of children.
  • Keep dishwasher tablets and other cleaning agents out of the reach of children.
  • Fix a guard on to the cooker so that children cannot put their hands on the rings or grab hold of saucepans.
  • Attach the cooker to the wall so it cannot be tipped over by a child.
  • Fix a guard to the oven door so that a child cannot open it and get burnt.
  • Keep coffee machines, irons and other warm appliances out of the reach of children, both when they are in use and when they are cooling down. Make sure there are no cables hanging down so children cannot pull at them and cause appliances to fall down over them.

Hot food and drinks can cause burns

Children can get burns from, for instance, warm food and hot drinks. Therefore remember to:

  • Keep hot drinks and warm food out of the reach of small children.
  • Do not drink hot drinks or eat warm food when your child is sitting on your lap.
  • Make sure the child is not near you when you are carrying a kettle or saucepan with hot contents.

Other objects can also cause burns. Remember to:

  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
  • Check that radiators do not become too hot.
  • Supervise so that children do not get burnt by touching barbecues or stoves.

If a child gets a burn that is larger than the palm of the child’s own hand, you must go to a healthcare centre (vårdcentralen) or emergency department for medical care.

Reduce the risk of poisoning

Children can be poisoned and get very ill if they consume dangerous chemicals. Keep dangerous chemicals such as dishwasher tablets, cleaning agents, washing machine agents and lighter fluid high up out of the reach of children. The same thing applies to medicines. Keep them in a locked cupboard. When you use products of this kind and medicines, keep an eye on them and put them away again afteruse. Tobacco, moist snuff (snus) and cigarette ends must also be kept out of the reach of children. Certain pot plants and mushrooms can be poisonous.

Some chemicals are so dangerous, it is better not to have them in the home; for example, caustic soda, drain cleaners and strong acids. When you visit other people’s homes, remember they may have dangerous chemicals and medicines inplaces where children can access them. You must also remember that people who come to visit your home may have medicines and other items in bags that they put on the floor where your child can access them.

Do not transfer products into tempting containers

Do not transfer dangerous substances into containers or bottles that children might think containsomething they can eat or drink; for example, fizzy drink bottles or ice‐cream containers.

Call Giftinformationscentralen (the Swedish Poisons Information Centre) first

Always call 1177 or 112 and ask for the Swedish Poisons Information Centre (Giftinformationscentralen) if a child has eaten or drunk poisonous substances and the situation is an emergency.

Keep liquid activated charcoal in your home

It is good always to have liquid activated charcoal in your home. It is also known as carbon suspensionand it can be bought from a pharmacy. Activated charcoal can be given to children who have beenpoisoned and it can prevent them from becoming seriously ill. However, in some circumstances, activated charcoal should not be given to a child; for example, if he/she is unresponsive. You must always phone Giftinformationscentralen first.

You can also phone Giftinformationscentralen if you want advice on dangerous substances in a non‐emergency situation. The telephone number is 010‐456 6700. The centre is open Monday‐Friday,9.00‐17.00.

There is more information about poisoning at Giftinformationscentralen.

Harmful substances in products

Toys and products for children must not contain certain harmful substances. One example is phthalates which are used in soft plastic. Several different kinds of phthalates are forbidden. Feeding bottles must not contain bisphenol A. This substance is forbidden in the EU but may occur infeeding bottles made in other countries. Ask the shop staff or look for information on the manufacturer’s website to find out if the product is safe for children.

Do not heat plastic in microwave ovens

Avoid heating baby food in feeding bottles or in plastic containers in a microwave oven. Chemicals can leak out of the plastic into the food.

Wash clothes and bed linen

Always wash clothes and bed linen before they are used. This will help to remove any remaining harmful substances used for the manufacturing of the products.

Children should not be exposed to smoke

Keep children away from places where people smoke. Smoke implies risks for a child’s health. Children who are in smoky environments get more respiratory tract infections than other children do. It also increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. If you are a smoker and cannot stop smoking, avoid smoking indoors where there are children.

Choose the right toys for the right ages

Toys must be CE certified and suitable for the child’s age. Toys for children younger than 3 years must not have any small parts which could get stuck in the child’s throat. The packaging of a toy usually stateswhat age the toy is suitable for. Now and again, examine whether the eyes, nose and other small parts on a soft toy are firmly attached. If they are loose, they could fall off and get stuck in the child’s throat.

Loud noises can damage hearing

Make sure that the level of noise from a toy is not too loud before the child plays with it. Loud noises can damage a child’s hearing. If your child uses headphones, check to make sure the level of sound is not too high.

Put pinch guards on doors

A child’s fingers can easily get pinched in doors. The risk of getting pinched is greatest in doors, windows, cupboards and car doors. You can buy pinch guards and fix them on to doors in the home.

Sockets must have safety covers

Sockets, wall plugs and broken cables can give electric shocks.

Check that wall sockets have safety covers. That means children cannot stick their fingers or other items into the sockets. If the sockets do not have safety covers, you can buy them yourself and put them over the sockets so the holes are completely covered.

Make regular checks of lamps, cables, chargers for mobile phones and computers, and other electric products to ensure they are in good condition and cannot give an electric shock.

Avoid the risk of drowning

Always supervise children when they are swimming or playing in water. This applies to older children as well. If a child falls over and ends up face down in water, it may be hard for him/her to get up. Even just a few centimetres of water in a bath can imply a risk of drowning. A drowning accident happens rapidly and noiselessly. Never leave your child unsupervised even if you have pulled out the bath plug.

Bathe babies in a small bathtub

Use a small bathtub when bathing a baby. Place the tub on a sturdy object like a table. Let the baby’s head rest on your arm. Hold your arm behind the baby’s head and place your hand around the baby’s upper arm. Hold on to the child the entire time, so his/her head stays above the water.

Once children have learned to sit unassisted in a bathtub, you must stay so close that you can quickly grab hold of them if they lose their balance.

Check the temperature of bath water

Always feel the water yourself first to check that it is not too hot or too cold. If the water is too hot, the child can be burnt. Use your elbow to feel whether the temperature is comfortable or use a bath thermometer. The water must be about 37 degrees Celsius. Remember that water from a hot water tap can be very hot!

Use an anti-slip mat

Use an anti-slip mat in the bath or shower. That will stop the child from slipping and getting hurt.

Playing safely in or close to water

Always supervise children who are playing in or close to water, both indoors and outdoors, on a beach, in a pool, on a jetty or by a pond. If children fall over, it can be hard for them to get up again and they can even drown in shallow water like big puddles or water-filled ditches. Always empty inflatable paddling pools when they are not in use.

Children should learn how to swim

Before learning how to swim, it is best for children to get used to being in water on their own terms; for example, by splashing around and playing with water. It is good if a child learns how to swim when he/she is about five years old. After that, being in or near water will be much safer and more fun. However, even if a child has learned how to swim, an adult should always be close by.

Use a life jacket

When small children travel on boats or are on a jetty, they must use a life jacket with a collar. The life jacket must be the right size for the weight of the child and be CE certified. The collar will turn the child over onto his/her back if he/she ends up face down in the water. Let children try swimming/bathing with the life jacket on so they can learn how it feels and how it works. Remember not to pull the strap between the child’s legs too tightly.

In many municipalities, you can rent or borrow a life jacket from Svenska livräddningssällskapet.

Protect skin from sun

Children must be protected from the rays of the sun. A child’s skin is thinner than an adult’s skin which means it is much more sensitive and burns more easily than an adult’s skin. If a child gets sunburn, there is a greater risk of getting cancer later on in life.

The sun is most powerful in the middle of the day, between 1100 and 1500 hours. Between those times, it is better for children to be in the shade. The rays of the sun can be powerful even if it is not warm outside.

Very small children should be kept out of direct sunlight.

Protect the child from the rays of the sun by

  • being in the shade
  • putting on a sun hat
  • putting on clothes that cover the arms and legs.

Use sunscreen creams with a sun protection factor if there is no other way of protecting the child’s skin. Use creams with a high sun protection factor, 30 or 50. You may need to put sunscreen on the child several times a day. Remember that children under the age of 1 year should only have cream applied to limited areas of the body.

Suitable sunscreen creams can be bought from a pharmacy. Ask the staff for advice. 

Avoid cold burns in winter

When it is very cold and windy outside, children can get cold burns on their faces and bodies. To avoid cold burns, it is important to dress the child properly before you go out. It is better to dress the child in several layers of roomy clothes than just one thick garment. It is good to use windproof trousers and jacket and also wear a hat and gloves.

Dry skin gets cold burns more easily

Reduce the risk of children getting cold burns in cold weather by not washing their faces in the morning. Washing skin can make it dry and more susceptible to cold burns. If you are going to put cream on a child with dry skin, it is better to do so in the evening, not just before going out.

If the child’s cheeks become very red, you may need to go indoors. Do not rub the skin; let it warm up slowly. If the skin has gone white, the child has suffered a surface cold burn. Then you must go to a healthcare centre (vårdcentral) straight away.

Protect children in traffic

Use reflectors or clothes with reflector material during the winter months. That makes it much easier for motorists and cyclists to see the child and reduces the risk of accidents.

A child car seat is vitally important

When children ride in a car, they must sit properly fastened in a certified child car seat. This applies to all children who are shorter than 135 centimetres. It is vitally important that children are protected in the event of an accident. 

The type of child car seat you need depends on the weight of the child:

  • New-borns up to babies of about 9 months must sit in a backward-facing baby seat.
  • Children from 7 months up to 4 years must sit in a backward-facing child car seat.
  • Children from 4 years up to 10-12 years must use a booster seat.

It is important that baby seats and child car seats are fitted so they face backwards. This is because a small child’s head is big in relation to the rest of the body. In the event of an accident, children who are facing forwards will not be able to brace themselves against the powerful force and they risk getting serious neck and head injuries.

Disconnect the airbag in front of the passenger seat

Most new cars have an airbag in front of the front passenger seat. An airbag is designed to protect people who are taller than 140 centimetres in the event of a collision.

It is very important that you disconnect the passenger seat airbag when you fit a baby seat or child car seat there. Otherwise the child can be seriously injured if the airbag inflates in the event of a collision. If your child is big enough to sit in a seat with a seat belt but is shorter than 140 centimetres, you must disconnect the airbag. However, side airbags do not need to be disconnected.

Safe cycling

Under Swedish law, children under the age of 15 years must wear a helmet when riding a two-wheeled bicycle. The child must wear a helmet when sitting on a bicycle seat or in a bicycle cart.

Remember that children are not mature enough to cycle in traffic until they are about twelve years old. Until then, it can be hard for children to assess distances, how fast cars and other cycles are moving, or focus on other things apart from their own cycling.

Use a helmet with a green chin clasp

The helmet must be CE certified. Helmets that are certified for small children have a green clasp under the chin. They are suitable for children up to the age of seven years. The clasp keeps the helmet on the head but opens automatically if the child gets stuck in some way and the strap is stretched. This will prevent the child from being strangled by the clasp.

Balance bikes and scooters

Children can reach high speeds when using scooters and balance bikes; i.e. a bike with a saddle but no pedals. On a balance bike, the child gains speed by using its legs. To stop, they put their feet on the ground. This can be hard for children who are younger than three years.

Delay the use of a two-wheeled bicycle

Wait until the child is about five years old before allowing him/her to ride a two-wheeled bicycle. Before that age, most children are not mentally mature enough nor do they have sufficient motor skills to handle a two-wheeled bicycle and speed. Choose a bicycle that has no gears, has a foot brake and is of a suitable size for the child. Small children cannot handle a hand brake.

Do not use support wheels

Usually, support wheels do not help children to learn how to cycle faster but support wheels often enable children to cycle faster than they can handle and there is a greater risk of them falling over. It is better to use a child bicycle push pole which is attached to the back of the bicycle. The adult holds on to the pole as the child cycles.

Use a helmet for other sports too

Ensure children wear helmets when they go sledging, skating or skiing. When children use in-lines or skateboards, they should wear a helmet, wrist protectors, knee guards and elbow guards. Knee and elbow guards protect them from grazes if they fall.

Jumping on trampolines

The trampoline must be CE certified. There must be a protective net around the trampoline if it has a diameter of more than 1.5 metres. Let the trampoline stand on an even and soft surface like a lawn. Make sure there is a distance of at least two metres to stones, trees, buildings and other fixed objects. Also make sure that no other children stand close to the trampoline when a child is jumping. Check that the trampoline is dry before a child jumps on it so that he/she does not slip.

Supervise a child who is on the trampoline and allow only one child at a time to jump. Children who are younger than five years may have difficulty controlling their balance and movements.

In the event of an accident

Phone 112 straight away if there has been an accident and if a child’s life or someone else’s life is in danger.

Always call 1177 or 112 and ask for the Swedish Poisons Information Centre (Giftinformationscentralen) if a child has eaten or drunk poisonous substances and the situation is an emergency.

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