The ‘fatal’ everyday mistakes you could be making around your child at home

While kids can't be protected from everything, but there are some seemingly innocent items kids interact with everyday which could pose a risk.

From toys to door frames, you may be unaware of the potential dangers lurking in your home.

In the wake of some unforeseen incidents, some parents are taking it upon themselves to warn others by sharing their heartbreaking stories.

Sheila Merrill, public health adviser for RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), has shared some expert advice and tips on keeping kids safe.

Here is some vital information and simple steps you can take to make your home and your child safer.


One of the most natural things, sleeping in the wrong position can prove fatal to newborns.

Particularly in the first few months you should be aware of the dangers of co-sleeping, and this includes naps as well as at nighttime.

This is because when asleep you can roll over onto your baby, or they can fall into an awkward position, suffocate or overheat.

Babies should be placed on their back in a cot or moses basket with no toys or blankets, as this reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The tragedy

New parents Haley Gavrills and Carmine Martino, both 20, shared their heartbreaking story as a lesson to others.

Dad Carmine fell asleep with two-month-old baby Lucas on his chest.

Tragically, he fell between his dad’s arm and the sofa, and suffocated last November.

The parents, from North Carolina, are aiming to highlight the dangers of co-sleeping following their son’s death.

Haley posted online: “There are so many people out there who are not educated about this.

“That's the scary part. If it happened to us then it could happen to so many other babies.

"There are also parents like us who are so tired. If you feel tired just put the baby down.”

The advice

Sheila says: "Babies should sleep in a cot in the parents’ room where a watchful eye can be kept over them, but not in the parents’ bed itself because of the risk of an adult rolling over and accidentally suffocating the baby.

"The risk increases if you’ve been drinking alcohol, smoking or taking drugs, or if your baby was born prematurely."


And not just sleeping with parents, but even toys can prove deadly.

There's a risk if anything in the bed or cot with a newborn, be it blankets or toys, as it runs the risk of suffocating them or them overheating.

And it increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The tragedy

Mum Dexy Leigh Walsh, from Dundee, shared her story after her daughter was suffocated by a teddy bear.

Dexy said she “blamed herself” following the death of her 18-month-old daughter, Connie Rose, in March.

She revealed she had stuffed teddies down the side of her cot to stop her falling out, then placed a big bear on top.

Tragically the teddy had suffocated her in the night, and Dexy posted her tale on social media, saying: “I want every parent to see and be aware of this.

“Let them fall – don’t try to stuff small places up with soft things, just leave it empty.”

The advice

Sheila says: "In order to reduce the risk of suffocation, babies’ cots should be free from clutter like soft toys, cot bumpers and soft, pliable bedding.

"These items can mould around a baby’s face and lead to suffocation.

"You should also ensure your child is the right age for the cot, bed or other sleep product you wish to use.

"Never use a pillow with a baby less than 12 months old, there is no benefit to the baby and it could cause suffocation."


Another potential hazard for young children involves blind cords, with official statistics revealing suffocation or strangulation was the cause of death for half of all under-ones who die.

And for those aged one to four that drops slightly, but only to 36 per cent.

There have been multiple cases where a toddler or small child has got themselves entangled in the cord, leading to death.

The Government’s safety leaflet instructs parents to keep blind cords away from cots and even nappy changing units.

The tragedy

A 17-month old boy died after becoming entangled in a blind cord at his grandmother’s house, in Dublin.

The inquest, in March, heard the toddler had gone down for his mid-morning nap, but when his grandmother came to wake him she found him upright with cord around his neck.

He had been sleeping in a cot next to the window, and despite paramedics best efforts he was pronounced dead at the scene, with cause given as asphyxia.

The advice

Sheila says: "Most of these accidents have involved children aged between one-and-a-half and two-years-old, and most commonly happen in the bedroom – which also happens to be the place where children of that age spend the most amount of time unsupervised.

"The safest thing you can do is fit a blind that is safe by design, which means that it does not have looped cords.

"There are additional steps you can take to keep your little ones safe.

"Choose blinds that do not have a cord, particularly in a child's bedroom, do not place a child's cot, bed, playpen or highchair near a window, and keep cords on curtains and blinds short and use cleats, cord tidies, clips or ties to keep them out of reach."


The Government advises that even up to the age of two-and-a-half, food should be given to children in baton, rather than ball, form.

This is to minimise the risk of choking, with choking, suffocation and strangulation the biggest cause of accidental death among the under-fives.

The Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) revealed food is the cause of more than half of fatal choking incidents, and grapes are the third most-common cause of food related deaths.

The tragedy

Earlier in June a two-year-old boy died after choking on a grape.

The youngster, from the UAE, was eating the snack when it became stuck in his throat.

His parents and paramedics battled to save the youngster, but he was declared brain-dead by the time he reached hospital and later died.

The advice

Sheila says: "Choking and suffocation are amongst the leading causes of accidental death for children under the age of three.

"Unfortunately, even if your child is confident with solid food, things can still be a choking hazard, items such as grapes, cherry tomatoes and blackberries are just the right size to block a small windpipe.

"RoSPA advocates quartering food of this nature including soft fruits in order to reduce the risk associated with choking."


Children left unsupervised around water are at risk from drowning, with only a few inches needed to cause death.

The Government revealed that drowning is the second highest cause of injury-related deaths for the under-fives, claiming the lives of around 13 children each year.

Some 90 per cent of children who die as a result of drowning are aged two to four-years-old.

Bathtubs are one main culprits for drowning, but pools and ponds also pose a risk.

The tragedy

Alex McCartney was bathing with his two-year-old sister, Lily, sitting in a bath seat secured by suction cups.

His mum, Joanne, from Co Armagh, popped downstairs to put the kettle on, but ran back up when he eldest screamed.

She found Alex, just seven-months-old, face down in the water.

Tragically he died four days later in hospital.

At the inquest into his death, in 2016, the coroner highlighted the danger of leaving babies "even for a short period of time".

The advice

Sheila says: "Always stay within arm’s reach of your little one when they’re in the bath.

"Wet soapy babies are slippery.

"If they slide down, or roll over, they can’t always right themselves, and you won’t always hear them trying.

"Baby bath seats might look helpful, but by leaving your hands free they can provide a false sense of security, and there is the added risk of toppling over easily.

"As babies can drown quickly, quietly, and in only a few centimetres of water, you’re better off without one – supervision really is key."


You may not think dried paint is a hazard, but if you have an old house or old piece of furniture, you may want to double check the paint.

Before strict rules were introduced after the 1980, most paint contains lead, a toxic chemical.

When ingested the paint acts as a poison, and poses a risk to small children who are more likely to play or eat flecks of paint or wood.

If you're worried about a surface or item, check it for cracks, peeling or chipping.

The tragedy

In March this year, a toddler died after eating flakes of lead paint-covered wood in their house.

The two-year-old was ill for around a week, with doctors from Leeds hospital mistakenly thinking it was tonsillitis.

Sadly it was discovered he had been eating the paint-covered bits of wood, and had double the fatal level of lead in his system, and his life support was later switched off.

The advice

Rospa says: "Paint produced before 1980 is likely to contain a high lead content.

"Any later surface treatments should be checked for wear as they may expose the original coating.

"If the paint is in poor condition or is known to have a high lead content, stabilise the existing surface and cover the paint using a non-lead paint and monitor."


It may seem sturdy, but pieces of furniture can easily fall on top of children.

Even if a chest of drawers is securely fastened, the removable drawers can still pose a risk.

From wardrobes to bookcases, these heavy items of furniture can easily crush small children.

And they often seem like play equipment to children, known for climbing up drawers and hiding in wardrobes.

The tragedy

Last year homestore Ikea was forced to recall 29 million chests and dressers after the death of an eighth child due to heavy furniture falling on top of them.

Jozef Dudek, from California, had been put down for a nap when he died last May.

The two-year-old was found under a Malm dresser, available in the UK, by his father.

The advice

Sheila says: "Children are inquisitive and also watch and copy.

"They will pull out several drawers at a time to investigate without understanding the risks involved.

"Drawers and shelving also make a wonderful climbing frame and wardrobes a nice hiding place, but unfortunately the furniture can easily fall on top of them.

"For heavy furniture, always fix it to a wall with safety restraints, for flat screen televisions place them on a wide stable base that is designed to accompany the set and use anti-tip straps.

"Most importantly, it also comes down to supervision – always keep a close eye on children and encourage them not to climb up furniture."

Here’s Lucas' dad Carmine Martino’s heartbreaking story in full.

And this is Dexy’s tribute to her little girl, Connie Rose.

This is all the information on the Ikea furniture which killed little Jozef Dudek.

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