Keep your child safe this holiday season | Western Cape Government


Keep your child safe this holiday season

14 December 2020

As the dedicated paediatric trauma centre for the Western Cape, the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital sees the worst of the worst cases.  These include children injured in car and taxi accidents, pedestrian accidents, burns and drownings. The sad fact is that the large majority, if not all, of these cases could have been prevented in some way or form.

This festive season the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCWMCH), ChildSafe, Poison Information Centre and the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) have a few safety tips for parents, grandparents, and all other caregivers of children.

“Prevention of accidents comes down to proper adult supervision,” says Yolande Baker, Executive Director of ChildSafe. 

Dr Anita Parbhoo, Acting CEO of the RCWMCH, echoes this: “Our emergency centre sees too many trauma cases coming in that could have been prevented if only there was proper adult supervision. We urge adults to look after children and not to consume alcohol or other intoxicating substances when doing so. Please don’t drink and drive, or drink and swim. Don’t allow your children to get in a car with someone who is under the influence.”

Safety Tips from ChildSafe:

Car Safety:

  • Be a mindful driver
    • Always keep within the speed limit
    • Keep an eye out for pedestrians, especially now with children home and playing outside
    • Check that there are no children playing around your car before you drive off
    • Remember that children are safer in the back seat
  • Check Your Child’s Car Seat Before Holiday Travel
    • 73% of car seats are not used or installed correctly, so before you hit the road, check your child’s car seat.
    • Ensure that all passengers are buckled up, even for short trips.
    • Use Booster Seats:  Safety in the car goes beyond your little ones. Kids who have outgrown a forward-facing harness seat are not ready for a seat belt or front seat yet. They are safest in a booster seat that enables the adult seat belt to fit properly. Even when children have graduated from booster seats, they should remain in the back seat (firmly buckled up) until they reach the age of 12.

Preventing burns:

  • Kids love to reach, so to prevent burns from hot holiday food or liquid spills, simply use the back burner of your stove and turn pot handles away from the edge.
  • Do not hold small children while drinking hot beverages.
  • Always start with cold water first when running a bath and remember to test the temperature with your elbow and never leave a child unattended to in the bathroom.
  • Put out braai fires with cold water and not sand.

Blow out candles; store matches and lighters out of reach

  • Keep holiday candles at least 30cm away from anything that can burn, and don’t forget to blow them out when you leave the room or before you go to sleep.
  • Make a habit of placing matches and lighters in a safe place, out of children’s reach. Avoid novelty lighters or lighters that look like toys.


Find the Perfect Toy for the Right Age

  • Consider your child’s age when purchasing a toy or game this holiday season. It’s worth a second to read the instructions and warning labels to make sure the gift is just right.
  • Before you’ve settled on the perfect toy, check to make sure there aren’t any small parts or other potential choking hazards.

Keep Button Batteries Away from Young Kids

  • Keep a special eye on small pieces, including button batteries that may be included in electronic toys. While these kinds of games are great for older kids, they can pose a potential danger for younger, curious siblings.

Don’t Forget a Helmet for New Bikes or Other Toys

  • If your child’s heart is set on a bike, skateboard or scooter this holiday season, be sure to include a helmet to keep them safe while they’re having fun.

Decorate Your Tree With Your children in Mind

  • Children are curious and will want to play with the ornaments on the tree, so you might as well prepare.
  • Move the ornaments that are breakable or have metal hooks towards the top of the tree. That makes room at the bottom for the ones that are safer for young children.

Check the Lights

  • Lights are one of the best parts of holiday decorating. Look at the ones on your tree and in and around your home for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections or broken sockets.

Some Beach and water safety tips from the NSRI:

  • Never leave a child alone near water: bath, pool, river, dam or sea.
  • Swim at beaches where and when lifeguards are on duty  - Lifeguards are on duty at selected beaches. Only swim between the lifeguard flags.
  • Don’t Drink and Drown - Never drink alcohol and then go to swim. 
  • Adult supervision and barriers to water are vital - Adults who are supervising children in water must be able to swim.
  • Know how to survive rip currents - Learn about rip currents on the NSRI website. Only swim when lifeguards are on duty. 
  • Don’t attempt a rescue yourself - Call a lifeguard or the NSRI by dialling 112 from your cell phone for help. Throw something that floats to the person in difficulty.
  • Do not let children use floating objects, toys or tire tubes at the beach or on dams - You can very quickly get blown away from the shore. If a child can’t swim and falls off in deep water they will drown. 
  • Make sure that the pool gate is child safe and closed and child a safe pool net is in place - Designate one responsible person to look after children who are swimming. Do not leave toys inside the pool area after swimming.
  • Do not be distracted by your cell phone or social media - While you are looking after children in or near water you need to focus on the children.
  • Learn how to do CPR - Learn how to do CPR and rescue breaths safely for someone who has drowned. Follow these guidelines: CHECK (are they breathing?) CALL (Call 112 for help) COMPRESS (push hard and fast in the centre of the chest).

Tips to keep children safe from poisons

  • Be careful when visiting other people’s homes where medications and poisonous substances may not be safely locked away.
  • Being out of one’s routine may make one more forgetful.
    • When traveling, do not keep medications in travel or shopping bags where they are easily accessible to curious children.
    • Make sure all medications are safety stored away immediately after use.
  • Hand sanitiser is everywhere! Make especially sure that toddlers cannot reach it to drink it or spray it in their eyes.
  • Hot summer days means everyone is thirstier. Be careful that paraffin or other poisonous liquids such as methylated spirits or thinners are not decanted into juice bottles where they may look like water or juice.
  • In summertime, snakes and scorpions are out and about. Children in high prevalence areas should always wear shoes when playing outside. 

Remember to add the 24/7 Poisons Information Helpline number to your contact list in case of poisoning emergencies! 0861 555 777

Emergency Contact Numbers:

ALL EMERGENCIES: 112 (cellphone) or 10177 (landline)
Poison Information Helpline: 0861 555 777

Media Enquiries: 

Dwayne Evans
Principal Communications Officer
Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital
Mobile: 072 236 8658


For more information from our contributors:

Poison Information Centre: