As UAE summer approaches and children continue to spend the vast majority of their time inside at home, parents and guardians need to be more aware than ever of the risks that abound in the house. Dubai police dealt with 286 cases in which children were hurt in accidents at home and 18 children have sadly died in domestic accidents in Dubai over the past three years. Summer is also a traditionally dangerous period for domestic accidents globally, with 40% of all unintentional injuries among newborns to 19-year-olds occurring between May and August, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
We spoke to health and safety experts for their top tips on avoiding domestic accidents for children.
Keep things out of reach
One of the easiest and least expensive babyproofing options is simply keeping potentially dangerous objects out of the reach of curious hands, says Agnieszka Lababedi and Anna Walo, co-founders of Just Baby - The Baby Planner. Agnieszka says, "Locked storage cabinets or high shelves mounted to the wall and out of reach of kids are always useful. It's important not to fret too much about the small stuff, like the everyday tumbles babies have when they learn to walk or crawl. You want to focus more on bigger potential threats, like swallowing small items or falling downstairs or off changing tables."
Top Tip: Need your toddler to stay put in his cot? Stop him or her from climbing out by sewing a two-inch-wide strip of fabric between the legs of their pyjamas. That's wide enough not to make baby feel uncomfortable, but it will keep your little one from swinging one leg over the railing.
Think like a baby
With rental prices down, many people are using the opportunity to move house over the summer. Factor in your babyproofing right from the get-go, even if you are still pregnant or your baby is not crawling yet. Paul Peters, managing partner of Shismoo Safety Services and Aquanet, says many dangers can actually be avoided by choosing a property carefully: "When you do settle on your new home, shift your perspective by getting down on your knees and crawling around. See what is possible to pull, touch, eat and so on. You can also talk to other parents about how they've babyproofed their homes, or use our companies' checklists to do a careful run-through of each room."
Top Tip: Cushion pointy edges with foam pipe insulation from the hardware store. It's usually sticky on the inside, so all you have to do is cut it open and press it on for instant soft edges. Upcycled tennis balls with a hole cut in them make great protectors when wedged on to corners.
Secure open areas
"Parents often place sofas and chairs along gallery rails or walls at the top of stairs, enabling children to climb up and fall," Paul says. "Parents should also keep an eye out for large gaps in gallery and stair rails." A practical and aesthetic way to close potential falling areas is with a childproof safety net such as Netzen, which Paul's companies Shismoo and Aqua-Net, install. "Made of a fine nylon mesh, it offers great protection without altering facades or open spaces," he says.
Top Tip: Don't forget curtain and blind cords can be strangulation hazards. Simply loop them up and secure with twisty ties to keep them out of reach.
Bathroom best practice
Just Baby's Anna says that toilets and walk-in showers are often neglected in terms of safety. "Parents tend to lock bathroom cabinets or drawers, forgetting that a child can easily open the toilet and drown head first, or really hurt their fingers if the heavy lid falls on them. Walk-in showers are also accidents waiting to happen." Keep kids safe by locking doors and toilets with adhesive mounted locks available at Shismoo, B-Safe, Ikea and other stores, or with specialised toilet seat kid lockers available at safety stores and online.
Protect little hands from burning
Staying in the bathroom, Anna says, "When parents are bathing their babies, they should make sure that the hot side of the tap is not exposed as the metal can leave nasty burns. Don't be fooled if the boiler or water heater is off as the summer months mean that water can still get scalding hot."
Top Tip: Use Sugru - a mouldable glue that turns to rubber - to make any shape you want, let it dry overnight and use it to protect little heads from bumping into faucets or other hard edges.
Fix shelves in place
To little children, dressers, drawers and cupboards can be seen as exciting playgrounds to climb, with potentially devastating consequences if the furniture tips over. "Aside from making sure shelves are fixed in place and don't slide when pulled, it's important to secure TVs and furniture to walls and floors to prevent them from falling on small children," Paul advises. Desert Cart sells a variety of anti-tip straps, starting from Dh72, which can secure TVs and other heavy furniture. Paul also says that parents should "put heavy stabilising items such as books on the bottom shelves; this will also prevent climbing. I advise fixing shelves to the wall at the top (and out of sight) with a bracket or two."
Put poisons out of reach
Anna points out that "chemicals and medications - including things like nail varnish - need to be kept behind closed cabinet doors that can't be opened. If your cabinets don't have locks, you can purchase cabinet latches from most baby safety stores." Sometimes, she adds, the best policy is simply packing dangerous items entirely out of reach. "The best way to prevent an accident from happening is simply removing the danger altogether. If you know that a cupboard holds dangerous chemicals, move them to a space your baby can't reach."
Top Tip: No cabinet locks to hand? Use an elastic band or hair band to secure cupboard handles temporarily.
Take a first aid course
Being in a situation where your child has been injured is the worst case scenario, but knowing what to do can be incredibly valuable. "Even if you never have to use the skills you learn during a first aid course, it's good to know you're trained to handle a situation if something does go wrong," Anna says. There are several paediatric first aid training courses in Dubai, including First Aid (www.firstaid.ae), HSS (www.hss-me.com) and SST (www.sstworldwide.com).
Teaching is the best prevention
Agnieszka points out that children observe and learn from us. "Even before they can speak - as young as one years old - babies can understand what is going on, so we must teach them through example, especially when it comes to safety." Paul agrees, saying, "Stair gates and door gates are only appropriate up until the age of about two; from then on - and even before - it's time for education on safety for all kids, especially older siblings. Point out issues, saying, for example, 'Remember to always keep the doors closed or baby will get hurt'."
Make plug sockets safe
More than half of the 18 accidental deaths of children in Dubai over the past three years were from electrocution. Dubai Police have urged parents to follow safety guidelines when using electrical devices or appliances that could harm young children, and to ensure all items comply with national and regional standards set by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology. “We also urge them to read user guides, ensure their appliances are used only for the purpose they were made for and conduct regular maintenance by experts,” says Capt Mohammed Al Qasim, head of the criminal engineering department at Dubai Police.
However, In June 2016 the Britsh National Health Service (NHS) released a report stating, "Socket inserts should not be used in health or social care premises, nor supplied for use in a home or residence. Any socket inserts currently in use should be withdrawn from use and responsibly disposed of." Paul explains: "While socket inserts or socket plug-ins are designed primarily to prevent toddlers and children from the risk of electric shocks from mains electrical sockets, new research has shown they are not reliable and can actually be more dangerous because, unlike real plugs, the various design faults of socket covers allow a curious child to insert them upside down into the earth pin only. On many sockets this opens the safety shutters and allows children access to the live contacts."
According to Fatally Flawed, a UK organisation founded by two professional engineers to raise awareness on the danger of 'safety' sockets, no socket covers available currently meet the correct dimensions for UK BS 1363 sockets, with no socket covers being approved for use.
See the top tip alongside for a better alternative:
Top Tip: Install plug socket covers that clip over the entire plug point without needing to be inserted into the actual power outlet. (Starting from Dh42.70 for a BabySecurity Single Electric Plug Socket Cover on Amazon.)
Look into custom solutions
"The main dangers in apartments are balconies and windows, while villas' pools and staircases are most hazardous," Paul explains. "Villas often have wide, ornate staircases that store-bought safety gates don't fit. Shismoo can custom-design safety gates according to UK standards, otherwise we'd recommend using room-divider units with a gate." B-Safe (www.timessquarecenter.ae/shop-B-Safe/4) in Times Square Mall in Dubai also offers bespoke safety gates, with the price varying depending on brand, material, size and installation time.
Look after little fingers
"Doctors around the world see thousands of finger injuries caused by slamming doors and cabinets each year," Paul says. He adds that the best way to avoid these types of injuries is by ensuring any doors, drawers or windows that can slam shut be secured using door grippers, stops or protectors that can be purchased from Shismoo, Ikea, B-Safe and many other retail and online stores. "Shismoo door stoppers cost Dh12 each, while and door grippers retail for Dh21," he says.
Top Tip: Cut off a small piece of pool noodle, make a slit in the centre and wedge it on to the upper edge of a door so that it can't slam shut.
Block pools and balconies
"You can control access to balconies by using a door restrictor," says Paul. "These open to 10cm for fresh air but nobody can get on to the balcony unless there is an adult there to unlock it. You can also use safety netting, like Netzen, to secure the open space above the balcony wall. This netting is unobtrusive and invisible from outside. When it comes to a pool, you need to use a pool safety fence and safety gate, or a pool safety net - that has been proven to be 100 per cent safe - over the water."
Photos by Istock