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Home > Healthy Living > Health Library > Health and Safety, Birth to 2 Years
This topic suggests ways to help prevent illness and accidental injuries in babies and young children. It doesn't cover every risk that a child faces. But it does cover many of the most common hazards and situations that can be dangerous to a child in this age range.
Watching your child grow is a wonder. But there are concerns in this age range:
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 among 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.
Car seats, cribs, strollers, playpens, and high chairs are used by infants and toddlers. If any of this equipment is worn or broken, or if you use it incorrectly, it can be dangerous.
If you buy or are given used equipment, make sure it meets current safety standards and has not had any safety recalls. You can check recall information from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission online at www.cpsc.gov or by calling 1-800-638-2772.
Taking care of yourself is a vital part of keeping your child safe. Most injuries to children occur 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 stressed, get help. Talk to your doctor or your child's doctor, or see a counselor. Get together regularly with friends, or join a parenting group.
Call 911 right away if you feel that you are about to hurt yourself or your child.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
The immune systems of babies and young children up to 24 months of age are still developing. This makes them especially prone to getting sick after being exposed to viruses and bacteria. Exposure to common pathogens can occur from person-to-person contact and from improperly prepared food. Good hygiene practices can help you protect your child from exposure to these germs.
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 cooking or heating 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. Babies and young children have a higher risk for secondary infections from these illnesses. Take extra care to help protect your child against infections.
Go to all well-child visits. During these visits, the doctor:
From birth to age 2, children depend on parents and other caregivers for their safety. Safety issues change and increase rapidly in number as newborns grow into toddlers.
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.
In the United States, safety standards for children's equipment, furniture, clothing, and other items are set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Although most new items you buy will likely meet these standards, older and used items may not. Equipment that has been used before, such as a baby carrier, may not be safe. These items may have wear and tear that affects how they function. The CPSC may also have recalled some items because of reported hazards.
Check that all the products your baby uses meet current standards. The following list provides safety information for items frequently used by children up to age 2:footnote 1
Sudden infant death syndrome is one of the most common causes of death for babies 1 month to 12 months old.
Although SIDS cannot be predicted or completely prevented, placing your baby to sleep on his or her back can help prevent this tragedy. For more information, see the topic Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
You can prevent many falling accidents by using common sense and appropriate equipment that meets all safety standards. Recognize new hazards that your baby may bump into or stumble over as he or she learns to scoot, crawl, and walk. And don't allow your child to walk or run with objects in his or her mouth. Your unsteady toddler could get face and mouth injuries in addition to other injuries from falling.
A young child can strangle from a variety of household items. Protect your child by minimizing these hazards:
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. All guns and firearms should be kept 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.
Drowning is a leading cause of death in young children. 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 cannot protect your child from every danger he or she can possibly encounter outside the home. But you can take reasonable precautions and teach your child basic safety rules. This general training can help prepare your child for many situations he or she may face.
Prevent accidents by using safe equipment, teaching safety awareness, and closely supervising your child.
Before your child visits an unfamiliar home, ask the homeowner whether you need to be aware of any dangerous areas, pets, or other safety issues. 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 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.
When you include your child in your activities, be sure to recognize the related safety issues. And focus on your child's comfort and safety.
Many parents wonder whether they are equipped to handle the responsibility of keeping their child safe. You will likely feel more confident if you are alert, take all the precautions you can, and know how to respond to emergencies.
Taking care of yourself is a vital part of keeping your child safe. Although accidents can occur at any time, most happen during times of excess stress, such as when:footnote 1
Recognize the signs of stress and what situations cause it. Be extra careful during these times, and ask for help when you need it. Also, work on taking care of your personal relationships.
For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
All parents have times when they feel exhausted, frustrated, angry, sad, or overwhelmed. Recognize that this is a normal part of being human and being 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. Some parents injure their children when their emotions cause them to shake, hit, or push a child. This can result in injury to the child such as shaken baby syndrome, which can cause lasting brain damage or even death.
Call 911 immediately if you feel 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:
American 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.
Other Works Consulted
American Academy of Pediatrics (2001, reaffirmed 2010). Falls from heights: Windows, roofs, and balconies. Pediatrics, 107(5): 1188–1191. Also available online: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/107/5/1188.full.
American Academy of Pediatrics (accessed August 2012). Pool safety for children. The Injury Prevention Program (TIPP). Available online: http://www.aap.org/family/tipppool.htm.
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.
Current as ofMarch 27, 2018
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Susan C. Kim MD - PediatricsE. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineJohn Pope MD - Pediatrics
Current as of:
March 27, 2018
Medical Review:Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & John Pope MD - Pediatrics
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