Health and Safety, Birth to 2 Years
This topic suggests ways to help prevent illness and accidental injuries in babies and young children. It doesn't cover every risk that a child faces, but it does cover many of the most common hazards and situations that can be dangerous to a child in this age range.
What can you expect from your child at this age?
Watching your child grow is a wonder. But there are concerns in this age range:
Remember that no one can watch a child's every move or make a home 100% safe all the time. Try to find a balance among supervising your child, taking safety precautions, and allowing your child to explore. Learn all you can about child growth and development. Doing so can help you learn how to respond to and make a positive impact on how your child behaves.
What can you do to help keep your child safe?
What kinds of equipment can be hazardous?
Car seats, cribs, strollers, playpens, and high chairs are all often used by infants and toddlers up to age 2. If any of this equipment is worn or broken, or if you use it incorrectly, it can be dangerous.
If you buy or are given used equipment, make sure it meets current safety standards and has not had any safety recalls. You can check recall information from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission online at www.cpsc.gov or by calling 1-800-638-2772.
How can your stress level affect your child's safety?
Taking care of yourself is a vital part of keeping your child safe. Most injuries to children occur when parents or caregivers are tired, hungry, or emotionally drained or are having relationship problems. Other common causes of family stress include changes in daily routines, moving to a new house, or expecting another child.
If you feel stressed, get help. Talk to your doctor or your child's doctor, or see a counselor. Get together regularly with friends, or join a parenting group.
Call 911 right away if you feel that you are about to hurt yourself or your child.
Frequently Asked Questions
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Healthy Habits for Preventing Infection and Illness
The immune systems of babies and young children up to 24 months of age are still developing. This makes them especially prone to getting sick after being exposed to viruses and bacteria. Exposure to common pathogens can occur from person-to-person contact and from improperly prepared food. Good hygiene practices can help you protect your child from exposure to these germs.
Safe food preparation
You can prevent most cases of food poisoning by being careful when you prepare and store food. Wash your hands and working surfaces while preparing food, cook foods to safe temperatures, and refrigerate foods promptly. Be especially careful when cooking or heating perishable foods, such as eggs, meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, milk, and milk products.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends the following steps to prevent food poisoning:
For more information, see the topic Food Poisoning and Safe Food Handling.
Protect against the spread of illness
Colds and flu can occur at any time of year. These upper respiratory infections (URIs) spread easily. Babies and young children have a higher risk for secondary infections from these illnesses. Take extra care to help protect your child against infections.
Visit the doctor regularly
Go to all well-child visits. During these visits, the doctor:
Safety Measures Around the Home
From birth to age 2, children depend on parents and other caregivers for their safety. Safety issues change and increase rapidly in number as newborns grow into toddlers.
You can help protect your child from accidents and injuries by taking general safety measures around your home. Think ahead about what potentially dangerous situations will attract your child. Supervise your child, but keep in mind that constant hovering over children can limit their experiences and confidence. Balancing supervision with safety precautions will help prevent accidents and injuries, as well as allow children to explore.
The following are common accidents and injuries that can occur around the house, and some suggestions on how to prevent them.
In the United States, safety standards for children's equipment, furniture, clothing, and other items are set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Although most new items you buy will likely meet these standards, older and used items may not. Equipment that has been used before, such as a baby carrier, may not be safe. These items may have wear and tear that affects how they function. The CPSC may also have recalled some items because of reported hazards.
Check that all the products your baby uses meet current standards. The following list provides safety information for items frequently used by children up to age 2:
To help you keep track of important safety features, see the topic Nursery Equipment Safety Checklist.
Safe sleeping and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Sudden infant death syndrome is one of the most common causes of death for babies 1 month to 12 months old. Most babies who die of SIDS are 2 to 4 months old.
Although SIDS cannot be predicted or completely prevented, placing your baby to sleep on his or her back can help prevent this tragedy. For more information, see the topic Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
You can prevent many falling accidents by using common sense and appropriate equipment that meets all safety standards. Recognize new hazards that your baby may bump into or stumble over as he or she learns to scoot, crawl, and walk. And don't allow your child to walk or run with objects in his or her mouth. Your unsteady toddler could get face and mouth injuries in addition to other injuries from falling.
Strangulation and suffocation
A young child can strangle from a variety of household items. Protect your child by minimizing these hazards:
Suffocation is another danger for young children. Teach your child about suffocation and the importance of a safe play area. Pay attention to possible suffocation dangers, such as:
Fire hazards and burns
Guns and other weapons
Gun and firearm safety measures should be established for all households and especially those where children live or visit. All guns and firearms should be kept in a locked area, unloaded, and out of reach of children. Also store knives (even kitchen knives), swords, and other weapons safely out of reach.
Teach children how to interact with pets. Teach them to never tease animals or bother them while they are eating. Explain that animals can sometimes hurt you. Also be sure to train your own pets and keep them healthy.
Children younger than 5 years of age die from drowning more than any other age group. 3 Help prevent drowning by following these tips:
In addition to these precautions, learn first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Knowing these skills can make the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. For more information, see the topic Dealing With Emergencies.
Safety Measures Outside the Home
You cannot protect your child from every danger he or she can possibly encounter outside the home. But you can take reasonable precautions and teach your child basic safety rules. This general training can help prepare your child for many situations he or she may face.
Prevent accidents by using safe equipment, teaching safety awareness, and closely supervising your child.
Basic safety precautions
Choosing child care
Before your child visits an unfamiliar home, ask the homeowner whether you need to be aware of any dangerous areas, pets, or other safety issues. It is always a good idea to see the household for yourself. Don't be afraid to voice any concerns you have about safety. You are ultimately responsible for protecting your child.
Before enrolling your child in day care, evaluate the environment and talk with care providers. Ask questions about their safety guidelines. Identify any hazards, and ask how they are handled. For more information, see the topic Choosing Child Care.
Going along for the ride: Exercising caution
When you include your child in your activities, be sure to recognize the related safety issues. And focus on your child's comfort and safety.
Many parents wonder whether they are equipped to handle the responsibility of keeping their child safe. You will likely feel more confident if you are alert, take all the precautions you can, and know how to respond to emergencies.
Connection between parent well-being and child safety
For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
All parents have times when they feel exhausted, frustrated, angry, sad, or overwhelmed. Recognize that this is a normal part of being human and being a parent. But if these feelings become too much for you to handle alone, keep your child safe by getting help.
For example, when your emotions are too much for you to handle alone, you may not have the energy or desire to watch your child as closely as you should. Some parents injure their children when their emotions cause them to shake, hit, or push a child. This can result in injury to the child such as shaken baby syndrome , which can cause lasting brain damage or even death.
Call 911 immediately if you feel you are about to injure yourself or your child.
Places to go for help include:
For more information on physical harm to children, see the topic:
For more information on handling difficult emotions, see the topic:
Other Places To Get Help
Last Revised: July 25, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Keeping your child safe. In SP Shevlov et al., eds., Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 457–506. New York: Bantam.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (2010). Fireworks-related injuries. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/fireworks/index.html.
National Safety Council (2009). Water safety. National Safety Council Fact Sheet. Available online: http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/resources/documents/water_safety.pdf.
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