Some accidents seem very unlikely – most people don’t think it is possible for their child to strangle themselves. But there are a growing number of cases of children catching themselves on blind cords or other loops, often when they’re climbing. If your child gets tangled in one of these cords it could be fatal
Did you know?
- Some babies start climbing or walking before they can crawl. They can shuffle on their bottoms to grab things that parents think are out of reach. This includes things like strings, cords and chains.
- There is now a safety requirement for cords on new window blinds to help stop children getting strangled by them. When you buy a new blind, the shop should provide you with hooks or other safety devices to keep the cords out of children’s reach, or the blind won’t have cords at all.
How many children die of strangulation?
- Asphyxia (which includes choking, strangling and suffocation) is the second most common cause of accidental child death in the UK, after road traffic accidents.
- 30 babies and toddlers have died from blind cord strangulation in the last 15 years.
How can strangulation be prevented?
Babies might not be able to move far, but they can reach and grab for things that catch their eye.
In their cot. Some babies have been strangled by looped cords hanging into their cot. This could be a string from a bag, or a blind cord, or a ribbon trailing into the cot. If you’ve got cot toys, make sure they’ve got short ribbons, and take them out of the cot when your baby goes to sleep. If there are cords nearby, like blind cords, make sure they are tied up high so that your baby can’t reach them.
With dummy string. If your baby has a dummy, the cord or string on the dummy can get looped around his neck. Although it might be annoying to keep retrieving lost dummies, having no cord on them is safer than tying them to your baby’s clothes. If you do still want to tie them to your baby’s clothes, keep the ribbon shorter than 150mm/6 inches to reduce the risk of strangulation.
They’re more active, and ready to explore. This means you have to be extra-careful with dangling cords all over your house. Think about what they can reach, and whether they can climb to get to things.
Drawstring bags. These can be a problem, especially with curious children. Keeping them well out of reach will stop your child grabbing for them and risking strangulation. Remember – if your child can reach it they could strangle on it.
Blind cords and chains. Most blinds are opened or closed with cords or chains. Toddlers and small children can put their head in these, or get caught up in them if they dangle down. Fitting a cleat hook or tying them up on a hook will get them well out of a child’s reach. Most new blind cords now come with hooks or other devices to tidy the cords or chains out of the way, or don’t have cords or chains at all.
Always make sure the cords on the back of Roman blinds are connected with a safety device that breaks away under pressure.
Curious toddlers are especially vulnerable to strangulation because their heads weigh proportionately more than their bodies compared to adults and their muscle control isn’t fully developed, which makes it harder for them to free themselves if they get tangled up. Plus, their windpipes are smaller and less rigid than those of adults and older children. This means they suffocate far more quickly when their necks are constricted.
In fact, it can take just 15 seconds for a toddler to lose consciousness if they get tangled in a blind cord. Death can occur in just two or three minutes.
Even if your cords or chains are well out of the way, children might still reach them. If your toddler can scramble up on chairs, beds, cots and tables, make sure they are well out of the way of blind cords or chains and other hanging strings and loops.
They might be older, but there is still a chance that 3-5s could get tangled in loops from blind cords or drawstring bags. They’re even more mobile and curious so it’s worth following the advice for toddlers (above) and making sure all dangling cords are out of reach.
Minimising risk associated with blind cords
- For advice on blind cord safety go to Blind-cords
- Read our scenarios related to blind cord accidents that are based on true stories. Consider these scenarios and discuss blind cords in the home and steps to take to make them safe.
- Download our free downloadable session plan “I might get strangled on a hanging blind cord”
- Visit the Make It Safe campaign and download the blind cord safety leaflet.
If you’re advising parents on new blinds or looking to buy new blinds for your setting, look for those with no cords at all or with concealed cords. Members of the British Blind and Shutter Association are on hand to offer advice to learn more about the Make It Safe campaign and download the blind cord safety leaflet.
Free downloads to share with parents and carers
Here are free downloads to share with parents and carers to help keep children safe from suffocation, choking and strangulation.