Tips for Keeping Children Safe During the Holiday Season

This article is brought to us by our partners at The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. Learn tips to prevent the top three causes of preventable child deaths in Tampa Bay and share them with family and caregivers. By Kelley Parris, Executive Director, The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County

In the Tampa Bay area, nearly 200 children under the age of six have died in the last five years (2012-2016) from the top three causes of preventable child death: drowning, unsafe sleep practices, and abusive head trauma.

Every caregiver of a young child – not just parents – bears the responsibility to educate themselves on these 100 percent preventable causes of child death. The holiday season is an essential time to educate anyone who may be caring for a young child. Caregivers should be aware of the measures they must take to ensure the children entrusted in their care remain safe.

Here are some essential safety tips to keep children safe during the holiday season and all year long. Be sure to share the information with family members, babysitters and other caregivers.

Safe sleep practices

More infants die in adult beds than anywhere else. In fact, infants are 40 times more likely to die in an adult bed than in their own cribs. Sharing a bed with an infant poses significant suffocation risks to the child, due to soft mattresses, pillows and comforters and the potential for rollover.

Practice the ABCs of safe sleep, even when you’re staying at a hotel or visiting a family member’s home. The safest way for infants to sleep is Alone on their Backs in a Crib. This minimizes the potential for the infant to suffocate, especially if they have not yet developed neck muscle control. Babies should not be placed to sleep on couches, beds, recliners or blow-up mattresses. Instead, bring a Pack ’n Play portable crib with you to keep your baby safe.

The infant’s sleeping area should also be free of blankets, pillows, bumper pads, stuffed animals, sleep positioners and toys. Be sure to share this information with grandparents and other family members who may watch your baby.

Safe stress relief

Shaking an infant or young child – even once – can be fatal. While most parents think this tragedy could never happen to them, parents are most often responsible for causing injury or death from shaking a baby, or another form of abusive head trauma.

In most cases of abusive head trauma, or shaken baby syndrome, the parent or caregiver does not mean to harm the child, but lacks the knowledge or skills to cope with a stressful situation. This means education is key to preventing head trauma deaths.

Crying is normal, and how babies communicate, so it’s important to share this information with caregivers. Before you go to a holiday party or out shopping, make sure to tell your babysitter that if they are attempting to soothe your child and become frustrated, it’s okay to take a time out. Leave the child safely on their back in the crib and step out of the room to regroup. They should check on the child frequently to ensure they are still safe.

Caring for a child can be stressful, and a hectic house around the holidays can add more stress. Watch for signs that a caregiver may not be prepared to care for a child, such as if they are easily angered, stressed or seem inattentive.

Drowning prevention and water safety

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4 in the Tampa Bay region. Even if you aren’t outside or near water, make sure someone has been designated to watch the children while you’re cooking or preparing for a holiday gathering. A child can drown as quickly as 20 seconds and in as little as 1 inch of water, so pools and beaches aren’t the only hazards. Everything from your toilet to your pet’s water bowl can pose a drowning risk to a young child.

Bathtubs should be drained when they are not in use and keep bathroom doors closed. If you’re staying with family for the holidays, or have guests staying with you, talk to them about these safety tips so everyone can help prevent your child from drowning.

Lack of adult supervision in and around the water is the main reason children die from drowning, so designate a “water watcher” who will keep their eyes on children at all times when kids are in or near pools, ponds and other types of water. It’s crucial for the “water watcher” to avoid distractions such as texting.

Learn more about keeping children safe at

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