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Child safety - Thriving under 5- Plunket

Plunket - Child Safety

• Did you know that in New Zealand 13,000 children under 5 years of age are hospitalised each year because of injuries and poisoning? Many of these admissions are avoidable. This safety section may help to give you some ideas on keeping your child safe as they grow and develop.

• As your child grows, he will become interested in touching and exploring anything he can reach. As he learns to roll,crawl, walk and climb he can easily get into dangerous situations. Your child will not understand what is dangerous and will need you to make his play area safe. You may not be able to prevent every bump, scrape or cut, but some simple safety measures will lower the risk of your child getting hurt.

• Some parents find it helpful to get down to the level of the baby on the floor and look for those areas that may be dangerous, like electric plugs, etc.

• As older children become increasingly independent from you and home, begin to give simple explanations about safety.

• A large number of injuries happen in other people’s homes. Children love to explore new places. Other adults may not realise there are dangers if they are not used to children visiting. Different homes have different dangers. If family/ wha¯nau or friends are going to care for your child, talk to them about safety risks in their homes (e.g. medications, poisons, road access) and how to make their homes safer for your child.

• You can talk to Plunket staff or other Well Child Health Providers about keeping your child safe and where to buy safety equipment.

• It is important that your child is always in the care of a responsible adult and never left alone in the car or at home.


Car crashes are one of the biggest dangers to your child’s life and health. Installing and using an approved car seat will offer the best protection to your child in a crash. By law in New Zealand, all children under five years of age must use a child car seat that is appropriate for their weight and size when travelling in a vehicle. The vehicle safety belt on its own is not enough.

• The safest place for your child’s car seat is the back seat of your car. NEVER place a rear-facing car seat on the front seat of the vehicle if there is a passenger-side airbag. The airbag inflates with enough force to seriously injure a child.

• Only put a forward-facing car seat in the front if all the other seating positions in the vehicle are taken. Move the vehicle seat as far back as possible.

• Check that your child’s car seat is installed correctly. The instruction manual explains how to use the car seat, how to fit it in the car and the weight and size your child needs to be for that seat.

• A video is also available from Plunket on the use of child car seats.

• If you have any concerns about how to use the car seat, talk to Plunket staff or local Plunket car seat rental scheme staff. Plunket staff can give you information about your local car seat rental scheme.

Infant car seats, used from birth to about 6 months of age.

• Rent or buy an infant car seat before you take your baby home from hospital. Try the restraint in your vehicle before you buy or hire it - not all car seats fit all vehicles.

• A car seat for a small baby (until about six months of age or 9kg in weight) is always used with baby facing the back of the car.

• Some car seats can be used rear-facing until baby is around 12kg in weight (about one year old). This is recommended as it offers best protection until your baby’s muscles and bones can offer good support.

• Use the car seat each time your baby travels in a vehicle.

The next size car seat.

• As your baby grows, you will need to move to the next size of car seat. It is safest to keep your baby in a car seat that allows her to be rear-facing (facing the back window) in the vehicle until one year of age.

• The child car seat needs to be right for the size and weight of your child. You can check this in the instruction book.

The instruction book will tell you how to secure your child seat in the car. Many car seats have a top tether strap that helps hold the seat in securely. If the car seat has a top tether, it must be installed and used correctly, according to the instruction book.

Moving to a Booster Seat

• Use a safety approved car seat for as long as your child is within its recommended height and weight range. Age isn’t important when it comes to using the most suitable car seat. When your child has outgrown the child car seat, move him to a booster seat. Use a booster seat with an adult lap/sash safety belt, never with an adult lap belt only.

• A booster seat with a guide that keeps the safety belt on her shoulder away from the neck is best.

• Keep your child in a booster seat until they are big enough to sit well back on the vehicle seat comfortably and the vehicle safety belt can be positioned correctly (over their shoulder and away from their neck), often not until your child is around seven years old.

• A child harness can be used with a booster seat or with the child sitting on the vehicle seat. There are also other devices on the market that hold the vehicle safety belt in the correct place when the child is sitting on the vehicle seat. These are alright to use providing the instructions are followed and the child is within the recommended weight range for the product.

Hiring a Car Seat

• Many people choose to hire a car seat. You can hire a car seat from one of Plunket’s car seat rental schemes. Some community groups, health providers and retailers also hire car seats. Your phone book will list your local car seat rental scheme. Ask Plunket staff, other Well Child Health provider or Plunket volunteers if you need information.

Buying a Second Hand Car Seat

When buying a second hand car seat check that:

• there is a safety standard label

• it has not been in a crash

• it has no fraying on the harness straps

• the buckle works well and has no rust

• it is less than 10 years old

• it has an instruction book

Keeping your child safe in the car

• Children can easily be hurt or hurt themselves if left alone in a car. Take your child with you when you leave the car, even if you are only going to be away for a few minutes.

• Do not leave lighters, matches, medicines or keys in the car. Remove the car cigarette lighter.

• Use the child safety locks on car doors if they are fitted.

• Teach your child to get in and out of the car on the footpath side.


• Keep your pram or pushchair on the footpath when waiting to cross the road.

• Children do not understand road dangers and cannot look after themselves when crossing the road until they are at least eight years old.

• Stay with them whenever they are on the road, footpath or driveway.

• Do not let them play on the footpath, driveway or road.

• Always stay with her when she is riding a bike, tricycle, or scooter on the footpath. When she is riding a bike, tricycle or scooter, check she is wearing a helmet and shoes.

• Hold your child’s hand when crossing the road and explain the importance of watching for traffic.



• One in five child pedestrian deaths or injuries occur in the family’s own driveway.

• Children are three times more at risk of death or injury where the play area is not fenced off from the driveway.

• The risk is higher for children in homes where driveways are shared.

• Most of the children who are killed or injured are toddlers around 2 years of age.

• Fence off the driveway from the main play area - particularly if the driveway is shared.

• Extreme care should be taken by drivers in driveways where small children may be playing.

• Where possible drive forwards out the driveway.

• Understand that small children cannot be seen behind a vehicle.





Baby’s sensitive skin is protected from sunburn by:

• Being kept out of the hot sun (11am-4pm). Children also need protection on cloudy days as they can still burn then.

• Using sun hats that keep the sun off his face and neck. Wearing a sun hat yourself will set a good example.

• Dressing your child in long sleeved loose clothing or clothing/swim wear made from special sun protection factor fabric as they cover his skin while not being too hot.

• Encouraging older children to play in the shade.

• Applying SPF 30+ broad spectrum sunscreen safety standard AS/NZS 2604 sparingly (thinly) to exposed skin. (Check the expiry date.) Your pharmacist can give you further advice about sunscreens.

• Checking your child does not get sunburnt from the sun reflecting off water, sand and the inside of sun umbrellas.

• Using a sunshade or umbrella when he is in a pram or pushchair.


• Have a safe play area outside that is out of the direct sun, fenced and away from driveways, roads and water dangers (pool, ponds, rivers).

• Turn anything that could collect rainwater upside down to prevent water collection and the possibility of drowning.

• Stay with your child if he is playing outside or playing in a paddling pool, swimming pool or spa pool. (If you have a cordless phone take it with you.)

• Empty and put away the paddling pool when he has finished playing.

• Remove poisonous plants from the garden and house. Ask your Plunket nurse or other Well Child Health Provider for a list of common poisonous plants.

• Teach your child not to eat anything unless you have said it is okay. Arum lilies and Nightshade are especially poisonous.

• Check outside play areas are safe from access to garden sheds. Lock all your garden poisons away.

• Check your child cannot get onto roads or driveways from the play area.


Falls - New Babies

• As soon as your baby is born, she will wriggle, move and push against things with her feet. You need to be aware that even these movements can result in a fall.

To help prevent falls:

• Stay with baby when on surfaces such as change tables, beds, chairs or sofas.

• Have everything you need with you if using a change table. The safest place to change nappies and clothes is on the floor.

• Put bouncinettes on the floor.

• Use the harness provided with nursery furniture - change table, bouncinette or high chair.

• Use the pram harness when baby is in the pram. If baby falls asleep in the pram, do not leave him alone as he may wriggle into a place where he cannot breathe easily.

• Read manufacturer’s instructions and warnings when using nursery products, (e.g. how to set up, how to use harnesses).

Preventing Falls as Your Baby Starts Rolling and Crawling

• Once your baby is rolling and crawling, they can get into many dangerous areas. Place a barrier at the top and bottom of stairs and keep him out of any room where he may be hurt.

• If your house has a balcony, make sure it is fenced so children cannot climb up and fall over the railing.

• Keep cot sides up when baby is in bed. If you have an adjustable height cot lower the level once baby can sit unsupported.

• To prevent baby becoming trapped or falling through gaps, check bars on cots, stairs, barriers and fences are firmly in place, not broken and have gaps between 50 and 85mm.

• Avoid baby walkers. They are dangerous because baby can tip over, fall down stairs or easily move into areas where he could hurt himself (e.g. be burnt by a heater or oven). Baby walkers don’t help baby learn to walk.

Preventing Falls as Your Baby Starts Walking

• As your child develops and perfects walking skills, he will fall again and again. Use barriers at stairs and doorways and window safety catches on windows your child could climb out of.

• Avoid leaving chairs beside the bench, or stove. Your child can climb up and get onto these.

• Place your child’s cot or bed away from windows.

Preventing Falls with Your Busy Toddler and Preschooler

• Your child is now fully mobile and able to move quickly. She can get into an endless number of dangers at home and in the neighbourhood.

• Protect your child from falls off play equipment, out of windows, down stairs and off everything she can climb on.

• Use safety glass or film on glass doors and low windows to prevent injury. Keep them blocked to prevent children falling into them. Put bright stickers on large areas of glass to help prevent children running into them.

• Use stair gates. Use window safety catches on windows your child could climb through and move furniture she could use to climb up to an open window.

• Play equipment needs to be maintained and the ground surface underneath made of impact-absorbing material.


• Paracetamol poisons more New Zealand children than any other poison. Too much Paracetamol could seriously harm or even kill a child. If you use liquid Paracetamol when your baby is unwell, it is important to give him the right dose for his age and weight. You need to follow the instructions on the bottle and do not give it more than four times a day. If you are unsure of the correct amount to give, check with your Doctor or Pharmacist. Many children have been poisoned by Paracetamol because they have been given too much or given it too often.

• As your child starts to put everything into her mouth, she is at risk of poisoning. All household detergents, cleansers and medicines (including babies’ medication e.g. liquid Paracetamol) need to be kept in a high lockable cupboard that can’t be reached by climbing. Use safety catches on cupboards.

• Encourage family members and visitors to keep pills and poisons out of reach. Medications kept in the fridge should be kept out of reach and sight.

• Do not leave poisonous substances within your child’s reach, even for a moment. After using poisons, close the container immediately and lock them away.

• Check poisons have child resistant tops whenever possible. Ask your pharmacist to fit safety caps to all your prescription medicines.

• Your child is attracted to the contents of bottles and containers as he plays. Many pills look like sweets and need to be locked away.

• Garden poisons must be locked away. NEVER store poisonous liquids in soft drink bottles.

• Dishwashing powder and liquid are highly poisonous. Keep dishwasher doors shut. Put dishwasher powder/liquid into the machine immediately before use. Do not leave undissolved detergent in the machine as it is highly poisonous.

• Keep perfumes out of reach.

• In the laundry, lock away washing powder and cleaning products.

• Check the paint on older furniture, toys and houses. If the paint is lead based it can poison babies and young children. Refer to your Well Child Tamariki Ora Health Book for more information.

• If you are concerned a child has eaten, drunk, or come in contact (on their skin, in their eyes) with household cleaners, pills or other poisons, urgently ring the National Poisons Centre phone number: 0800 POISON (0800 764 766), Accident and Emergency Department or your doctor.



• Your baby will soon start to put everything possible into his mouth. NEVER leave small objects within his reach.

• Check around your cot for cords, bumper pad ties, toys and low mobiles that your baby could choke on, could get twisted around his neck or fingers, or could be pulled over his head.

• Avoid toys tied to the cot or those with elastic, ribbons, or strings.

• Take baby’s bib off before putting him to bed as he could suck on the tie and choke, or it could strangle him.

• Remove ties and ribbons in the neck of babies’ clothes. If sucked they can cause choking. Ties and ribbons can also strangle babies if they get caught on toys, the cot or furniture.

• NEVER feed her small hard pieces of food, such as popcorn or nuts until she is 5 years old.

• Tie a knot in plastic bags and keep them out of reach.

• Always remove the original plastic wrapping from cot and bassinette mattresses.

• Learn what to do if your child chokes.

• Refer to your Well Child Health Book, Choking and CPR section, or ask your doctor or Plunket nurse or other Well Child Health Provider.


• Check your child’s toys are large enough to prevent choking. If they fit into a 35mm film canister they are too small. Check they are unbreakable and free of sharp edges and small bits that could be broken off, swallowed or choked on.

• Toys need to be right for your child’s age. Older children often play with small pieces of toys that could choke younger children. If babies are around, keep these toys out of baby’s reach.

• When babies roll and crawl they learn by pulling and touching everything. It is best to move precious or dangerous things out of reach. Babies are too young to understand that certain objects can break or can hurt them.

• Avoid toys with elastic or strings. They could twist around baby’s neck or fingers.

• Watch children playing with balloons and throw away deflated and burst balloons as pieces can be breathed in and cannot be easily removed from their mouth.

Other Safety issues

• Keeping sharp knives and scissors out of reach will help prevent her cutting herself.

• Store guns, bolts and ammunition separately in separate locked areas.



• It only takes 4cm of water and 2 minutes for your child to drown. Never turn away or leave him unattended in water.

• Your child does not understand the dangers of water. Always stay with him in or near water, whether it be the bath, paddling pool, swimming pool, spa, sea or river. Your child can drown in the shallowest water. Knowing how to swim does not make him safe in water at a young age.

• If you have a swimming or spa pool check it is securely fenced to comply with the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act. Your local Council can give you information about this. Every year young children drown in domestic swimming pools which are inadequately fenced.

• If your phone rings, take your child with you if they are in the paddling pool or pool.

• Teach your older child some water safety rules, e.g. waiting for an adult before getting in and walking not running around the pool.

• Do not rely on floatation aids such as air rings or arm bands to keep your child safe. Your child needs your constant supervision.

• Empty the paddling pool once he has finished playing in it.

• Turn anything that could collect rainwater upside down to prevent water collection.

• Rivers and beaches are fun, but can be very dangerous. Your child needs your constant supervision to keep him safe. Swim with your child in safe water away from strong currents and rips.

• Keep the nappy bucket off the floor where baby can’t get to it. Have a firm-fitting lid.

• Keep laundry, bathroom and toilet doors shut.

Preventing Drowning in the bath

To keep your child safe in the bath:

• An adult (or responsible teenager 14 years and over) needs to stay with him when he is in the bath until he is five years old, as children can easily slip and drown.

• Take the phone off the hook while he is in the bath so you are not disturbed by phone calls.

• Take everything you need to the bathroom.

• Take your child with you if you have to leave the room.

• Watch the bath filling and empty it as soon as your child is out as older children can try to get back in.

• Put the plug up high when not in use to prevent your child or older children putting the plug in and filling the bath.


• The skin of babies and young children burns very easily. Burns and scalds may require treatment for many years and can cause permanent scarring.