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28 Mar 2021

Six summer safety hazards every parent needs to know about

Our advice will help minimise risks at home and outside, ensuring you have fun and stay safe with your baby or toddler.

Whether you're spending more time in the garden or travelling to see friends and relatives this summer, it's important to not let your guard down when it comes to your baby or toddler's safety.

Find out the key hazards that every parent and grandparent needs to be aware of, plus what you can do to help keep your little one out of harm's way now the weather is getting warmer.

Baby first aid essentials - what kit you need to have and first aid course information.

1. Fit a stair gate on your back door

When the temperature increases, you may be starting to leave your back door open to keep the air circulating, but can you be sure that your little one will be safe if you do this?

Stair or baby gates aren't just suitable for inside doorways - they can also add an extra level of safety to your external doors this summer.

Even if you have childproofed your garden or outside space (for example ensuring that water features or ponds are covered and sheds locked), you still might want to keep your child inside where you can keep a proper eye on them or to prevent them going unsupervised from the back of your property to the front via a side return.

There are different types of stair gate available - pressure, screw, roll-up mesh and travel gates - that have different features, advantages and disadvantages. RoSPA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) says that even if your little one isn't crawling yet, stair gates are useful to stop dangerous falls.

Find out how to buy the best stair gate and familiarise yourself with our Don't Buy stair gates to help you avoid a bad purchase.

2. Check your baby monitor works when outdoors

A baby monitor is not only useful if you're in another room while your baby is slumbering - it can also be an essential bit of kit if you're in the garden during warm weather and they're inside.

It can give busy parents the double reassurance of being able to keep your baby safe by listening out for them while you hang washing or supervise older children playing outside.

However, if you're planning to use a baby monitor you need to know if it has the spec to allow you to use it in this way. This involves checking the range, signal and battery life, as well as considering the type of property you live in.

When we've tested baby monitors, we found that some aren't up to scratch. While some allow you to move more than 80 metres away from the baby (or nursery) unit without losing the signal, others won't let you get much further than 20 metres away.

A good battery life will also give you the confidence to know that it's always working effectively rather than losing charge and leaving you inadvertently out of communication with your little one.

Remember, too, to keep the monitor at least three metres away from your baby to avoid any strangulation risk from wires.

Take a look at our Best Buy baby monitors including video, audio and smart wi-fi monitors.

3. Apply high factor sun protection cream

Babies under six months old should be kept out of direct sunlight, according to the NHS, and the skin of young children should be protected from the sun when UV levels are high.

When little ones are exposed to the sun, it's best to apply a sun protection cream that's specifically formulated for youngsters and with a high protection factor (SPF 50).

Although they offer the same protection as adult ones, formulations for infants and children tend to be fragrance free to reduce the number of potential allergens because their skin tends to be more sensitive than that of an adult.

When choosing sun cream for your child:

  • Look for a short ingredients list and with the words fragrance free and hypoallergenic on the container.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 35ml of sun cream (seven teaspoons) to cover an adult, so use a quarter to a half of this depending on the size of your child.
  • Use more if you're using a spray rather than a cream in order to get good coverage.

Find out more about baby and child sun creams, including how popular sun cream brands compare.

4. Don't let your pushchair get too hot

Pushchair with parasol

When you're trying to keep the sun's bright rays off your little one, you may be tempted to drape some fabric over their buggy.

However, research by Which? revealed that whatever type of cover you use - a muslin, towel, fleece blanket, Koo-di sun/sleep cover or a SnoozeShade - they all lead to a spike in temperature within the pushchair. In some cases this was by 6°C more after 60 minutes in hot temperatures then when just the hood was up.

These raised temperatures may cause your baby to overheat, increasing the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

If you're using a pushchair in hot weather:

  • Get into the shade if possible.
  • Use a sunshade designed to block UVA and UVB safely.
  • Encourage your child to regularly drink water (if you are breastfeeding there's no need to give them water).
  • Clip a special baby fan to the buggy to help circulate the air.

Read our pushchair safety tips to learn more, including how to avoid accidents and injuries.

5. Keep them cool when travelling

If you're planning to go anywhere when the weather warms up, it's worth being aware of how hot temperatures outside can impact the temperature inside your car too.

The European Child Safety Alliance says that car temperatures can rise 10-15°C every 15 minutes and can occur on days as cool as just 22°C, when the inside of a car can quickly reach 47°C.

If they're exposed to rising temperatures, little ones could end up with hyperthermia (which includes both heatstroke and heat exhaustion) because a child's body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult due to lower water reserves.

Heat exhaustion usually causes the body temperature to rise to 37°C - 40°C and symptoms include nausea or vomiting, increased heavy sweating and pale, cold, clammy skin. It should be treated as a medical emergency as it can soon turn into heatstroke.

Heatstroke occurs when the body temperature rises above 40°C and can result in rapid and strong pulse or heart rate, hot red, dry or moist skin and even a loss or change of consciousness.

Both types of hyperthermia should be treated as medical emergencies and treated right away. If they're not, fatalities can occur within two hours.

When travelling by car make sure to:

  • Keep your infant cool, comfortable and hydrated when travelling during car travel on hot days.
  • Put a shade up on the window next to them.
  • Never leave a child or infant in the car on their own, no matter for how short a time it is.

6. Keep children away from unsupervised paddling pools and ponds

Paddling pools are a great way of cooling down when it's sweltering - but as with all situations involving water and children, safety comes first. Even if you're planning to put just a little splash of water in, you need to supervise little ones to guard against slipping and, most importantly, drowning.

RoSPA (the Royal Society for the Protection of Accidents) says: 'Children can drown in as little as 5cm of water, and even a paddling pool can be dangerous, especially if a young child is left unattended.'

Remember to empty paddling pools, containers, buckets and watering cans as soon as they've been used. The Royal Life Saving Society UK suggests turning paddling pools and containers upside down once empty so they don't collect water.

Garden ponds also represent a hazard, with an average of five under-sixes drowning in them each year in the UK. If you have a pond or have young children or children who regularly visit, RoSPA's advice is to place a fence around the pond, a grille over it or to fill it in altogether at least until they are old enough to be safely around water.

If you have a hot tub, make sure it is emptied when you're not using it or the correct lid is securely fastened so curious children can't find a way to get in. If you have a residential swimming pool, make sure there's a strong fence around it and that the self-latching, self-closing gate is always securely shut.