In addition to the chronic health impacts of unhealthy housing such as lead poisoning, asthma, and cancer, unsafe housing conditions also interfere with the immediate health and well-being of children through unintentional injuries. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death in all children ages 1-21. However, there is a disparity in the rates that these accidental injuries are experienced. Individuals with low socioeconomic standing, especially urban African-American children, have historically experienced greater rates of injury. Additionally, male children also tend to experience a higher rate of injury.
Although the type of unintentional injury most likely to occur varies with the age of the child, the National Safe Kids Campaign identifies fire, drowning, suffocation, choking, falls, unintentional firearm injury, and poisoning as leading causes of death in the home.
Although unintentional injuries are by definition accidental, there are basic precautions that can be taken in the home to help limit the conditions conducive to injury:
- Properly and consistently use safety devices such as smoke detectors, bicycle helmets, gates, and child-proof containers and latches.
- Actively supervise children’s activities, including continuously monitoring children while they are in or near water and generally restricting children’s access to areas containing potentially hazardous materials or objects.
- Keep other dangerous items out of children’s reach — knives, handles from pots on the stove, hot liquids, appliance and window treatment cords, etc.
- Know and have accessible important phone numbers — emergency response teams, poison control, family doctors, etc.
Additional behaviors, such as refraining from cigarette smoking in the home, can reduce multiple health risks to children including chronic health impacts (asthma) as well as unintentional injury — residential fires caused by smoking materials (including cigarettes) are the leading cause of fire-related death.
Creating a safer home environment will serve not only to lower the risk of children’s unintentional injury, but also to assist in the establishment of an overall healthier home environment.
American Academy of Pediatrics – The Injury Prevention Program
AAP’s Injury Prevention Program is an educational program that aims to prevent common injuries in children under 12 from sources such as poisons, falls, burns, vehicles, and more. Their website provides age-related safety sheets, national campaign information, and other educational resource.
National Safe Kids Campaign
A national nonprofit organization dedicated solely to the prevention of unintentional injuries in children, SAFE KIDS also coordinates numerous state and local coalitions nationwide. The national website contains information on the campaign, safety tips, product recalls, and how to get involved in the various coalitions.
The Future of Children – Unintentional Injuries in Childhood
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
This is the federal government’s lead agency for injury prevention. In addition to education and factual resources on injury, violent injury, and unintentional injury, their website provides information on national injury prevention and research activities.
Su Familia (Your Family) Helpline: 1-866-SU FAMILIA or 1-866-783-2645
The National Alliance for Hispanic Health sponsors this helpline to offer Hispanic consumers free, reliable, and confidential health information in Spanish and English and help navigate callers through the health system.