Watch out! How to spot the hidden dangers lurking in your home

·4 min read
Mann fällt von Hocker
Mann fällt von Hocker

We tend to assume that the safest place for our loved ones to be is at home - but unfortunately, this isn't always true. Our homes can actually be full of hidden dangers that might put our children or pets at unexpected risk. Accidents will always happen, but with a little forewarning, we can make our homes as safe as possible. Here's how to spot - and stop - the biggest risks.

Button cell batteries on white background
Many people don't realise they have dangerous button batteries in their home (Getty Images)

Button batteries

You might not think you have any of these small, round batteries in the house - but they could well be hiding in your TV remote, bathroom scales, watches or toys. Unfortunately, these tiny batteries are just the right size for curious babies, children or pets to swallow, and this can be extremely dangerous. 

In a tragic recent case, two-year-old Harper-Lee Fanthorpe died in hospital in Stoke-on-Trent after swallowing batteries from a remote control. Acid from the battery burned through her oesophagus and into a major artery.

To protect children, try to identify any potential button batteries that might be in your home and take steps to keep them out of harm's way. If you have a button battery in a common household item, such as a remote control, don't leave children alone with it and think about wrapping it round securely with gaffer tape. 

Consultant paediatrician Dr Anna Pigott has stated that parents should be aware of symptoms such as drooling and coughing up blood, as well as a child pointing to their throat or stomach. If your child displays these symptoms, or if you have any reason to suspect your child has swallowed a battery, call 999 immediately. 

Watch this: What happens when your child swallows a button battery

Pot plants and cut flowers

In recent years we've become a nation of house plant and floral obsessives - but while potted plants and fresh flowers in vases look lovely and can boost our mental health, they can also present secret dangers. Heavy pots and plants can easily topple onto babies and pets, and many species are also surprisingly toxic to children and animals. 

"Many plants - including tulips, holly and hyacinths - can be toxic to cats and dogs, although their toxicity is considered low," the RSPCA said in a statement. 

"However, even non-toxic plants may cause some stomach upsets if ingested. Lilies are highly toxic to cats and ingestion of any part of the plant or flower can be fatal." 

It's best to do some research before you buy a new house plant - parlour palms and spider plants are both pretty and pet-safe options. 

Likewise, many common plants and flowers such as daffodils can also be dangerous if children eat them, so keep all your botanical decorations well out of reach of little mouths. 

Household drugs

Common drugs such as antihistamenes can be dangerous in small hands, or paws (Getty Images)
Common drugs such as antihistamenes can be dangerous in small hands, or paws (Getty Images)

Medicines are the cause of over 70 percent of hospital admissions for poisoning in under-fives, according to the NHS. What's more, common household drugs such as antihistamines or paracetamol can be really dangerous for pets - and anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen, while harmless in small doses for us, are potentially deadly for dogs. 

To keep everyone safe, make sure you keep all drugs in a locked, child and pet-secure drawer or cupboard. 

Grapes and raisins

Two varieties of grapes, red and green in a colander. Gray background. Top view.
It's important to be careful with grapes around children and dogs (Getty Images)

Grapes and raisins are great healthy snacks, but they both present surprisingly big dangers - to children and dogs, respectively.

Not every parent will be aware that grapes are the third most common cause of choking deaths in the UK, according to the Child Accident Prevention Trust. 

Unfortunately, grapes are just the right size and shape to block a child's small windpipe, while the tight seal produced by the grape’s smooth surface can make them really difficult to dislodge with standard first aid techniques.

The answer? Cut all grapes lengthways in half, or ideally in quarters, and otherwise keep them out of reach.

Meanwhile grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas are all totally toxic to dogs and can lead to acute kidney failure or even death - so you need to guard the contents of your fruit bowl carefully. Be aware that onions and chocolate are both also dangerous for dogs.

Coat hangers

Coat hangers might seem commonplace and fairly innocuous, but they are actually a huge hidden danger. Wire hangers can present a chocking, skin-stabbing or eye-piercing hazard, while plastic hangers can not only break and splinter but also leach dangerous toxins and take up to 1,000 years to rot, according to an investigation by The Mail on Sunday

The answer? Refuse plastic hangers when you buy clothes, and invest in wooden ones instead. Meanwhile, don't ever give children wire hangers for their own wardrobes, and don't leave them lying on your floor after trying on outfits. 

Watch this: Keeping kids safe from choking hazards

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life edit
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