Avoiding Unintentional Home Injuries 2


Did you know that home injuries are second only to road traffic accidents as a leading cause of trauma in children?


In our last post we mentioned that trauma is the most likely cause of death in children who survive the first five years of life, when infectious diseases are the leading cause of death. Most of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) lacks functional health care systems and coordinated trauma response, so a large portion of these deaths occur, because victims do not receive timely first aid and proper medical attention.


The goal of a trauma care system is to combine minimal time getting the victim to the hospital with proper resuscitation before the patient gets to the hospital. This is then followed by good surgical and rehabilitative care on arrival in the hospital to ensure as complete a recovery as is possible.


Even in developed countries where sophisticated trauma care systems exist, the first aid given to a trauma victim at the scene of the injury can not only be life-saving but can prevent subsequent permanent disability.


Here are some additional useful tips to prevent major home injuries as well as appropriate first aid measures in the event of an injury.


FALLS: Falling is the leading cause of unintentional home injury deaths;



  • Keep floors free of toys and obstructions.
  • Exercise close supervision when your toddler learns to walk.
  • Never leave babies unattended either in the room or on raised surfaces.
  • Check the floor surface constantly for wear and tear.
  • Always ensure the bed-rail of the baby cot is raised when the baby is in the cot.
  • Always use a securely fitted safety harness in a pram, pushchair or highchair.


First Aid:

  • Don’t panic. Call for help if necessary.
  • Check the level of consciousness of the infant/child.
  • Examine to see if his airway is clear (e.g. can talk, cry or not); if breathing is adequate and circulation is normal (observe colour of the face, depth and rate of breathing).
  • If there is no pulse, or the child is not breathing begin ‘Hands Only’ CPR (Cardio pulmonary Resuscitation). Click on the link to watch a simple demonstration of ‘Hands Only’ CPR.


  • If the child is bleeding from the mouth or is vomiting, turn the child to his/her side. This will avoid any chances of the choking.
  • If there is a wound, try to control the bleeding by applying pressure to the area using a cloth. Press down with your palms rather than your fingertips.
  • Always suspect spinal injuries: If the child’s neck is in an awkward position (not normally placed) or he is unconscious, do not move him. Get help immediately. This could mean that the child’s neck is broken, and moving him/her in such a situation can cause more harm than good. If he must be moved, use a ‘log roll’ technique and place him flat on a stiff board to reduce the amount of movement.


POISONING: The second-leading cause of accidental home injury deaths, takes nearly 5,000 lives each year. Causes include food poisoning, accidental swallowing of drugs, detergents, insecticides, kerosene, etc.


  • Keep medicines and chemicals out of sight and reach of children, preferably in an isolated, locked cabinet.
  • Always store chemicals in their original containers with appropriate labels.
  • Never tell children medicines are “sweets” as this may give a wrong idea to children.

First Aid:

  • Do not panic. Call for help immediately.
  • Examine the child to see if the airway is clear (e.g. can talk, cry or not); if breathing is adequate and circulation is normal (observe color of the face, depth and rate of breathing).
  • Start CPR if necessary. Be cautious not to contact any chemicals.
  • If the child is unconscious but the airway is clear, breathing & circulation are normal, place on his/her side until you get to the hospital.


FIRES & BURNS: Home fires and burns claim thousands of lives a year, making it the third-leading cause of accidental home injury deaths. Have plenty of working smoke alarms in the building and hold fire drills with your household twice a year so that everyone knows what to do if there’s a fire.



  • For adults, never hold a hot drink/food and a child at the same time.
  • Ensure proper fence or door is installed at the entrance of kitchen to keep small children out. Keep closed at all times. Instruct children not to go into kitchen.
  • While cooking, pay extra attention to the stove fire and the cooking utensils. Turn the pot handle away from the front, and close to the wall.
  • Keep flammable objects and liquids away from the stove.


First Aid:

  • Rinse the injury site with cold tap water for about 10 minutes. If the child feels chilled, stop rinsing.
  • Cover the injury site with sterile gauze. Don’t burst any blisters. Dress with bandages.
  • Never apply liniment or other cream or ointment on the injured sites.
  • Do not tear off any burned clothing that sticks on the injured site.


CHOKING: Airway obstruction—which includes choking, suffocation, and strangulation—claims about 1,000 lives a year. It is the fourth-leading cause of accidental home injury deaths and a particular concern for young children.


  • Choose toys appropriate to the age of children. Avoid toys with detachable small parts.
  • Do not give children less than 3 years old small hard foods e.g. groundnuts, sweets.
  • Ensure small objects are kept out of reach of children.
  • Pull cords on curtains and blinds should be kept short and out of reach of children.
  • Strings and plastic bags should be kept out of reach of children.


First Aid:

  • Do not panic. Call for help immediately.
  • If the Child Is Unconscious: Start CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)
  • Move the child to the floor and start CPR. Take the object out of his mouth only if you can see it.

For a Child Younger Than 1 Year Who Is Conscious but Not Breathing:

  1. Get the Child into Position .Hold the child face down on your forearm, supported by your thigh. Keep the child’s torso higher than the head.
  2. Give Forceful Blows – use the heel of your free hand to thump the child in between the shoulder blades up to five times.
  3. Turn the Child Over – Turn the child face up, and keep supporting the head and neck. If the object is not out yet, go to step 4.
  4. Press the Chest. Place the child on a firm surface, which may still be your forearm. Put two or three fingers in the center of the child’s breastbone and push quickly up to five times.
  5. Repeat the back thumping and chest pushes until the object comes out or the child loses consciousness.

Here’s a link to a video demonstration. https://youtu.be/9xVVcQPAyys


DROWNING: Drowning and submersions in water account for some 800 deaths a year. Again, water can be a particular threat to children. A very young child can drown in as little as an inch or two or water.


  • Supervise young children in bathtubs.
  • Always watch young children while they are swimming or playing in or around water.
  • Teach your children to swim and about water and pool safety rules.


First Aid:

  • Do not panic. Call for help immediately.
  • Examine the child for breathing. If not breathing, start CPR immediately


Remember that by keeping a clear head and staying calm, you can be the difference between life and death for someone who has been injured at home or on the road.


Tune in at 2:30pm on Channels TV Today for more on avoiding unintentional home injuries.