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This topic suggests ways to help prevent illness and accidental injuries in young children. It does not cover every risk that a child faces, but it does cover many of the most common hazards and situations that can be dangerous to children ages 2 to 5 years.
Children in this age range are gaining many new skills, and they feel more and more independent. They may be curious, want to explore the world around them, and act without thinking.
At this age, children see everything that happens as it relates to themselves. And they believe that what they wish for or expect to happen can affect what really happens. They overestimate what is in their control, which contributes to their vulnerability. They are often unaware of the consequences of their actions. This can lead to dangerous situations.
You can help decrease any dangers by accepting that your child will go through active and curious phases. Think about what you can do to avoid safety hazards. If your child is discovering the joys of riding a tricycle, for example, be sure to make riding in the street off-limits.
You can also find behaviors to teach and model. For example, if you wash your hands before eating, you child will probably also do this.
Remember that no one can watch a child's every move or make a home 100% safe all the time. Try to find a balance for supervising your child, taking safety precautions, and allowing your child to explore. Learn all you can about child growth and development. Doing so can help you learn how to respond to and make a positive impact on how your child behaves.
Your child is gaining in confidence and probably wants to explore. But your child still needs your close supervision and guidance. You can:
Taking care of yourself is a vital part of keeping your child safe. Most injuries to children happen when parents or caregivers are tired, hungry, or emotionally drained or are having relationship problems. Other common causes of family stress include changes in daily routines, moving to a new house, or expecting another child.
If you feel over-stressed, get help. Talk with your doctor or your child's doctor, or see a counselor. Find support from family and friends, or join a parenting group.
Call 911 right away if you feel you are about to hurt yourself or your child.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Learning about health and safety issues:
Protection against harmful germs:
The importance of parental self-care:
You can prevent most cases of food poisoning by being careful when you prepare and store food. Wash your hands and working surfaces while preparing food, cook foods to safe temperatures, and refrigerate foods promptly. Be especially careful when you cook or heat perishable foods, such as eggs, meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, milk, and milk products.
To help prevent food poisoning:
For more information, see the topic Food Poisoning and Safe Food Handling.
Colds and flu can occur at any time of year. These upper respiratory infections (URIs) spread easily. Take extra precautions to help protect your child against these and other viral and bacterial infections.
Schedule regular well-child appointments. During these visits, the doctor:
You can help protect your child from accidents and injuries by taking general safety measures around your home. Think ahead about what potentially dangerous situations will attract your child. Supervise your child, but keep in mind that constant hovering over children can limit their experiences and confidence. Balancing supervision with safety precautions will help prevent accidents and injuries as well as allow children to explore.
The following are common accidents and injuries that can occur around the house, and some suggestions on how to prevent them.
Preventing falls isn't always easy. Toddlers and young children often move quickly. Their excitement about their mobility and their lack of experience can make them unaware of dangers, such as stairs or hills. Children ages 4 to 5 years anticipate many dangers, but they may not have the physical skills to avoid accidents. Some ways to help prevent falls are to:
Children ages 2 to 5 years can easily choke on everyday objects and food. Your child needs your supervision even though he or she may be able to eat independently.
Many household items can strangle a young child. Make sure that loose cords, objects, and furniture don't pose strangling risks.
Suffocation is another danger for young children. Teach your child about suffocation and the importance of a safe play area. Pay attention to possible suffocation dangers, such as:
Gun and firearm safety measures should be established for all households and especially those where children live or visit. Keep all guns and firearms in a locked area, unloaded, and out of reach of children. Also, store knives (even kitchen knives), swords, and other weapons safely out of reach.
Teach children how to interact with pets. Teach them to never tease animals or bother them while they are eating. Explain that animals can sometimes hurt you. Also be sure to train your own pets and keep them healthy.
Children younger than 5 years of age die from drowning more than any other age group.1 Help prevent drowning by following these tips:
In addition to these precautions, learn first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Knowing these skills can make the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. For more information, see the topic Dealing With Emergencies.
You can't protect your child from every danger that he or she can possibly encounter outside the home. But you can equip your child with some basic safety rules and precautions. Let your child's natural surroundings give you ideas for general training to help prepare your child for a variety of situations he or she may face.
To help avoid accidents, injuries, and unsafe situations outside the home, establish and review basic rules before outings. Reinforce the rules often. And let other caregivers know about them.
Before your child visits an unfamiliar home, ask whether you need to be aware of any dangerous areas, weapons in the home, pets, or other safety issues. Also, it is always a good idea to see the household for yourself. Don't be afraid to voice any concerns you have about safety. You are ultimately responsible for protecting your child.
Before enrolling your child in day care, evaluate the environment and talk with the care providers. Ask questions about their safety guidelines. Identify any hazards, and ask how they are handled. For more information, see the topic Choosing Child Care.
Many parents and caregivers want to share their favorite activities with their young children. This can help build common interests and appreciation for exercise and other pursuits. Be sure, though, to recognize the safety issues related to these activities. Remember that your child's comfort and safety are most important.
Taking care of yourself is a vital part of keeping your child safe. Although accidents can occur at any time, many happen during times of excess stress, such as when:
Recognize the signs of stress and what situations cause it. Be extra vigilant during these times. Take care of yourself and your personal relationships.
For more information, see the topic Stress Management and/or use the Interactive Tool: What Is Your Stress Level?
All parents have times when they feel exhausted, frustrated, angry, sad, or overwhelmed. This is a normal part of being human and a parent. But if these feelings become too much for you to handle alone, keep your child safe by getting help. For example, when your emotions are too much for you to handle alone, you may not have the energy or desire to watch your child as closely as you should. And some parents injure their children when their emotions cause them to shake, hit, or push them.
Call 911 right away if you feel that you are about to injure yourself or your child.
Places to go for help include:
For more information on physical harm to children, see the topic:
For more information on handling difficult emotions, see the topic:
This branch of the CDC seeks to prevent injuries and violence and to reduce their consequences. The website has information on injuries, accidents, and situations that can lead to injuries. Topics include home and recreational safety, motor vehicle safety, violence prevention, and traumatic brain injury.
This website has information about chemicals in toys, clothing, and other products. The Ecology Center created this resource because product makers aren't required to disclose what chemicals are in many consumer products.
On this interactive website from the U.S. General Services Administration, you and your child can learn health, safety, and everyday living information specific to your child's age. Social media links and newsletter sign-up are also available.
Safe Kids USA is a nonprofit organization that seeks to prevent accidental childhood injury. The website has safety tips about car travel, fire and burns, falls, poison, drowning, toys, and more. Links to each state's child safety laws and local SAFE KIDS coalitions also are provided.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is an independent federal regulatory agency. CPSC seeks to protect consumers and families from dangerous products that can injure people, especially children. CPSC develops safety standards and informs the public about product hazards and recalls. You can call their toll-free number or email them to report unsafe products.
CitationsNational Safety Council (2009). Water safety. National Safety Council Fact Sheet. Available online: http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/resources/documents/water_safety.pdf.Other Works ConsultedAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Keeping your child safe. In SP Shevlov et al., eds., Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 457–506. New York: Bantam.Bunik M, et al. (2012). Ambulatory and office pediatrics. In WW Hay et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 21st ed., pp. 231–253. New York: McGraw-Hill.Collins CL, et al. (2007). Children plus all nonautomobile motorized vehicles (not just all-terrain vehicles) equals injuries. Pediatrics, 120(1):134–141.Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2002, reaffirmed 2005). Policy statement: Skateboard and scooter injuries. Pediatrics, 109(3): 542–543.Kendrick D, et al. (2007). Home safety education and provision of safety equipment for injury prevention. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1).Rivara FP, Grossman DC (2011). Injury control. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 17–25. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.Window Covering Safety Council (accessed August 2012). Basic cord safety. Available online: http://www.windowcoverings.org/about-2.
Last Revised: November 26, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
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