Child seatbelt
The guides – ‘Safety of children in vehicles and ‘Safety of children at home’ – outline the most common ways in which children hurt themselves and how parents and guardians can ensure a safe environment for their children at home and while traveling. Image Credit: Gulf News archive

Dubai: Around the world, a child dies from a preventable injury every 30 seconds. That is almost 3,000 children each day.

But what exactly is a ‘preventable injury’? And how can parents step up, to make sure that children do not become victims of completely preventable harm?

To mark Emirati Children's Day on March 15, the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC) and the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA) launched two guides for parents answering these questions.

The guides – ‘Safety of children in vehicles and ‘Safety of children at home’ – outline the most common ways in which children hurt themselves and how parents and guardians can ensure a safe environment for their children at home and while traveling.

Why children are more vulnerable

According to the guide, injuries are one of the leading cause of death in children.

“For every death, tens are hospitalised, hundreds visit the Emergency Room and many more are treated at home. Some children suffer temporary or permanent disability. Injuries do not occur because of fate, chance or bad luck. As parents and caregivers, we must realise that injuries to children are predictable and preventable,” the guide states.

According to ADPHC, children are at a higher risk of injuries because of the following reasons:

• Large heads in proportion to the rest of their body, making them imbalanced, particularly when they fall.
• Smaller airways, putting them more at risk of choking on small objects.
• Thinner skin is bruised, grazed and burns more easily.
• Lack of height means they are often unseen by vehicles, increasing the risk of a road traffic incident.
• Immature and inexperienced, therefore they do not understand hazards or risks.
• Curious and fearless by nature – they like to explore.

Keeping children safe
The leading causes of preventable injuries include:
• road traffic injuries
• falling
• drowning
• burns and scalds
• poisoning
• choking
• bicycle related collisions

Road traffic injuries

Putting on a seat belt. For illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Supplied

Children are also at risk from vehicles being driven, particularly reversed, onto the driveway at their home. In addition, there have been incidents of young children being left unattended in a car. As a parent or childcare provider, you can make a difference by being mindful of these risks, as well as teaching your children about the dangers of traffic.

Here are some guidelines you can follow:

Inside the car

• Always buckle-up children using car seats, booster seats or seat belts that are appropriate for their age, height and weight.
• When safely secured in the back, children are also prevented from leaning out of the window and playing around – all of which can distract the driver’s attention.
• Ensure all windows and doors in the back of the vehicle are locked.
• Always be a role model and set the right example by wearing your seatbelt.

Also read:

Outside or at the home

• Ensure vehicles are parked away from where your children play.
• Teach your children to never run towards a moving vehicle.
• When transporting children, make sure they are never left behind or left in the car alone.
• Fit a special mirror, detectors or camera inside your vehicle that alerts you of children moving behind.
• Install a lockable fence or barriers around play areas to prevent children running out into the street.

When walking around the neighborhood

• Educate your children about road safety, such as never running or pushing when walking by the roadside.
• Always hold their hands, paying extra attention when crossing the road.
• When you walk with them, ensure they are on the inside of the sidewalk – furthest away from moving vehicles.
• Teach your child to cross the road correctly – always using the designated pedestrian crossing, only on the green light, standing back from the curb, using a pedestrian crossing and looking right, left and right again, before crossing.
• Children will copy their parents and other grownups – therefore make sure you never use your cell phone whilst walking by the roadside.


Falling causes two-thirds of all non-fatal child injuries, which are treated in emergency rooms, according to ADPHC.

Although falls often lead to minor ailments such as bruises and grazes, others can cause fractures or broken bones, whereas serious falls can inflict potentially life-threatening injuries.

Here are some guidelines you can follow:

• Never leave a baby alone on a changing table, bed or other elevated surface.
• Always install a safety rail or guard on your child’s crib or bed.
• Take big toys out of a cot so the child cannot climb on them.
• Fasten the harness in a highchair or pram securely.
• Use safety gates to block stairs and potentially hazardous areas and rooms.
• Use windows latches and locks on external doors at all times.
• Move furniture away from windows that could be climbed on.
• Mobile baby walkers allow access to potentially dangerous situations such as falling down stairs, therefore replace them with ‘activity play stations’.
• Beware of sharp corners on furniture, such as tables and units. Use corner protectors.
• Ensure all play areas, inside and outside, have a soft surface such as a rubber or foam mat to absorb a fall.


Drowning is one of the major causes of death among children under five years of age.

Most incidents in this age group occur in bathtubs, home swimming pools, wading pools, toilets, buckets and other containers filled with water. It only takes 5cm of water for a child to drown.

Here are some guidelines you can follow:

• Babies can easily fall, therefore always support your baby in the bath and around water sources like a water-filled bucket or toilet as they may easily fall in.
• For most children water means fun, play and adventure – however adult supervision is recommended at all times.
• Always stay within reach of young children near any source of water.
• Children who cannot swim unaided must wear armbands, swim jackets or other flotation aids, and should always be supervised.
• Be sure to install a lockable fence around your home’s swimming pool and ensure an adult supervises children at all times. Never leave your child alone even for a few minutes.
• Teach the correct water safety behaviors – no running, pushing or diving.
• Enroll your child in age-appropriate water orientation and learn-to-swim courses.

Burns and scalds

Injuries from burns can be fatal. Burns can occur in a variety of locations inside and outside the home, therefore these areas must be controlled and supervised at all times.


• Always check the temperature of the water using your elbow or thermometer before bathing a baby. The temperature should be less than 49ºC (120ºF). Purchase automatic temperature control valves to help prevent burns.
• While carrying a baby, never cook or carry hot drinks.
• Ensure saucepan handles are out of reach when cooking.
• Create a child-free zone around the oven and other hazardous areas.
• Install safeguards around the oven to prevent a child reaching for the saucepans.
• Ensure electrical cords are out of reach.
• Make sure children do not insert objects into an open socket as this can cause an electric shock. Use safety covers for unused sockets.
• Do not leave lighters or matches where a child could find them.
• During winter, different types of heating is used at home and on trips (e.g: camping) which could result in burns, carbon monoxide poisoning or suffocation. Therefore, supervise children closely.
• Make sure your home has smoke alarms and a fire extinguisher.
• Prepare for any potential emergency by agreeing on an evacuation plan for the family.
• Never allow children to play with fireworks. They are extremely dangerous and can cause serious injuries.


Poisons come in all shapes and sizes and can often be fatal. Most incidents occur in the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom – often in the presence of parents and caregivers, due to products not being stored correctly and out of reach.

Poisoning can be caused by ingestion (eating or drinking), absorption (contact with the skin or eyes), inhalation (breathing fumes) and injection (puncture wounds from sharp objects).


• Always supervise your children, they act quickly – but so do poisons.
• Ensure detergents are locked away.
• Store cleaning products on a high shelf or cupboard.
• Keep medicines and tablets out of a child’s reach.
• Never leave cosmetics or perfumes accessible to a child.
• Keep products in their original packaging – never put them into food or drinks containers.
• Always tell a child tablets are dangerous and never tell them they are candies.
• Make sure all medicine and household are packaged with child -resistant packaging.

• For help, contact the emergency number 999 immediately if person is:
- Drowsy or unconscious.
- Having difficulty in breathing or has stopped breathing.
- Uncontrollably restless.
- Having seizures.
- Known to have taken medications, or any other substance, intentionally or accidentally overdosed.

If the patient’s condition is stable, you can contact the Department of Health’s Drug Information Centre at 800424 during working hours for any further clarification or assistance.


Choking is a serious issue in babies and young children. When a child is unable to breathe, also known as suffocation, it can be terrifying. Infants are most at risk of suffocating when they are sleeping, whereas toddlers are more likely to choke on small objects such as food, coins, parts of toys etc.


• Parents sleeping with their baby pose a high risk of rolling on them, causing suffocation, strangulation or entrapment. Babies should always sleep in their beds and cribs.
• When feeding a baby, always prop them or sit them up securely and safely.
• Do not leave a small child unattended when they are eating.
• Never leave small objects, such as coins, nuts or buttons lying around – be vigilant and store them in a safe place.
• Always cut food up into small pieces and remove seeds and pips.
• Choose toys according to the appropriate age group, avoiding those with small parts for younger children.

Bicycle related collisions

children bicycle bike child
Image Credit: Tatiana Syrikova/Pexels

Severe head injuries and brain damage cause the majority of fatalities involving bicycles or motorcycles, according to ADPHC. Wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 per cent and brain injury by 88 per cent.


• Helmets and arm/knee protection should always be worn whenever a child is using a bicycle, skateboard, roller skates, scooter or hover board.
• Never let children ride on or near main roads and ensure they are under your supervision.
• Don’t allow children to ride around the neighborhood after dark, they might not be seen and could be hit by moving vehicles.
• Teach your children to ride their bicycle inside the appropriate cycle lines on the sidewalk.
• Do not allow children to ride motorcycles, quad bikes or buggies in the desert, which can cause serious fatalities.

You can access the complete guide through the ADPHC website – The guide also provides a checklist for parents to assess how safe their home is for children.