According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, each year more than 1 million children age under 15 are taken to accident and emergency (A&E) after being injured in or around the home.

Many more children are treated at home by their parents, carers or GP.

Who's at risk

In the UK, accidental injuries are the most common cause of death in children over one year of age.

Children under five are most at risk from an injury in the home, with boys more likely to be injured than girls.

Burns and scalds are common injuries in young children. Many young children also end up at hospital after swallowing objects or following a suspected poisoning.

Older children are more likely to experience fractures, such as a broken arm or wrist.

Many accidents and deaths that occur in the home are avoidable. By identifying and understanding the potential risks and taking some basic safety measures, it's possible to keep your children safe.

Read more about preventing accidents and injuries in the home.

When should I take my child to hospital?

Dial 999 to request an ambulance if your child:

  • stops breathing
  • is struggling to breathe - for example, if the area under their ribcage is 'sucked in' 
  • is unconscious or seems unaware of what's going on
  • won’t wake up
  • has a fit for the first time, even if they seem to recover

Take your child to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department if they:

  • have a fever and they're lethargic (lacking in energy), despite having paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • are having difficulty breathing (breathing fast, panting or they're very wheezy)
  • have severe abdominal pain
  • have a cut that won't stop bleeding or is gaping open
  • have a leg or arm injury and they're unable to use the limb
  • have swallowed poison or tablets

Call NHS 111 if you’re worried about your child’s injuries and you're not sure whether they need medical help.

After an accident such as a fall from height, if you’re not sure whether you should move your child, make sure they’re warm and then dial 999 to request an ambulance.

Read more about what to do if your child has an accident.

What causes injuries in the home?

Most non-fatal accidents are caused by falls from height, with most deaths occurring as a result of fire.

A child can be injured anywhere in or around the home, but the most common place for accidents to occur is in the living or dining room. The most serious accidents occur in the kitchen and on the stairs.

There are potential hazards in every home, such as hot water, household chemicals, fireplaces and sharp objects. The design of some homes, such as those with balconies and open staircases, can also contribute to accidents.

Young children are unable to assess the risks that these things pose. Their perception of the environment around them is often limited and their lack of experience and development, such as poor co-ordination and balance, can result in them being injured.

When do accidents happen?

Accidents can occur at any time of the day, but they're more likely to occur in the late afternoon and early evening. Most children have accidents during the summer, at weekends and during school holidays.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to an injury in the home, including:

  • distraction and poor supervision
  • changes to the child's usual routine or being in a hurry
  • poor housing and overcrowded conditions (childhood accidents are closely linked to social deprivation) 
  • being unfamiliar with surroundings, such as when on holiday or when visiting friends or relatives

Stress, long-term illness or the death of a family member can also increase the chances of a child having an accident.  

Further information:

Preventing accidents at home

Katrina Phillips of the Child Accident Prevention Trust explains how to make your home childproof and prevent avoidable accidents.

Media last reviewed: 21/04/2015

Next review due: 21/04/2017

If your child has an accident

How to deal with accidents and injuries, including cuts and broken bones

Page last reviewed: 01/07/2013

Next review due: 01/07/2015