Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

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Am Fam Physician. 2013;87(7):online

See related article on prevention of unintentional childhood injury.

Car safety

  • Use a car seat or booster until your child can properly fit in a seat belt, usually between nine and 12 years of age. Children should sit in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.

  • Never drive after drinking alcohol or taking drugs.

  • Focus on the road, and don't text and drive. Even hands-free phones increase the risk of a crash.

  • Parent resource: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (


  • Call the National Capital Poison Center (1-800-222-1222) or 911 immediately if you think your child has swallowed something that could be dangerous.

  • Don't give your child syrup of ipecac.

  • Parent resource: National Capital Poison Center (


  • Place children younger than one year on their backs to sleep.

  • Make sure cribs and child beds meet the latest safety guidelines and are put together correctly.

  • Use the correct size mattress for your child's crib. Use sheets that fit tightly.

  • Remove objects from beds and play areas that could strangle or trap your child, like cords and strings.

  • Parent resource: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission crib guidelines (


  • A fence that blocks the pool from the rest of the yard is best.

  • Stay in the water and close enough to touch your child whenever he or she is swimming.

  • Use only flotation devices that are approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Many armbands and rings are not meant to keep your child from drowning.

  • Always have a phone by the pool so you can call 911 in an emergency.

  • Enroll your child in swimming lessons at four years old.

  • Learn CPR in case your child stops breathing.

  • Parent resource: U.S. Coast Guard recommendations for choosing a flotation device (

Fire safety

  • Install smoke detectors and check them regularly to make sure they are working.

  • Make a home fire escape plan. Practice with your family so that your child knows what to do if a fire happens.

  • Don't keep matches and lighters where children can reach them.

  • Don't smoke or allow others to smoke in your house.

  • Parent resource: National Fire Protection Association ( and


  • Don't let your child use a walker unless your doctor recommends it for special needs.

  • Don't use bunk beds for children six years and younger.

Bicycle safety

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

AAFP's Patient Education Resource

Safe Kids USA

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