Strangulation and suffocation
Strangulation is when something gets caught around a person’s neck, and this prevents them from breathing.
Suffocation is when something blocks a person’s mouth or nose or compresses their chest, and this prevents them from breathing.
There are things you can do to keep your child safe from suffocation and strangulation.
Baby equipment: preventing strangulation and suffocation
There are simple things you can do to keep your child safe from strangulation and suffocation around baby equipment like dummies and bottles:
- Don’t use anything to keep a dummy in your young baby’s mouth. If your baby can’t spit out the dummy when they want to, they could be at risk of suffocation.
- Don’t use ribbons, strings or chains to attach a dummy to your child. These things could strangle your child.
- Hold your child while they drink from a bottle. Don’t prop the bottle in your child’s mouth, because they won’t be able to spit out the bottle if they can’t breathe.
Prams, strollers, bouncinettes and child car seats can also be strangulation and suffocation risks. Here’s how to avoid risks:
- Always supervise your child when they’re in a pram or stroller. Some prams and strollers can fold slightly, even when a child is in them. If a child’s head gets covered when the pram folds, it’s a suffocation risk.
- Use a 5-point harness to strap your child firmly into a bouncinette or car seat. This will help to prevent the risk of your child slipping down and getting straps tangled around their neck.
- Never use bouncinettes or car seats as places for your child to sleep. Your child might get into an unsafe sleeping position in these places.
Bags, boxes and packaging: preventing suffocation
These tips can reduce suffocation risks from bags, boxes and packaging around your home:
- Make sure large boxes have lids that fit tightly and can’t come off easily. Or put child-resistant locks on boxes and other large containers, like old fridges or freezers. This can stop your child opening these containers, climbing in and getting stuck inside.
- Make sure boxes and other large containers have air holes. If your child climbs into a container and gets stuck, this can help prevent suffocation.
- Store plastic bags, plastic wrap and dry cleaning bags out of reach. Always tie a knot in them before storing them or throwing them out. Your child could suffocate if they pull them over their head.
- Remove all plastic from cot and bassinette mattresses and throw it away. You can’t use plastic packaging as a substitute for a waterproof mattress protector.
- Choose balloons made of foil – uninflated or popped rubber and latex balloons can be inhaled. Long ribbons can wrap around children’s necks, so the ribbons should be no longer than 22 cm. Don’t give uninflated balloons to young children.
Beds and bedding: preventing strangulation and suffocation
Use these tips to reduce strangulation or suffocation risks related to beds and bedding, especially for babies:
- Use a safe mattress and cot that meet Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 2172. Also check that bed railings fit tightly against the side of the mattress. This can help to ensure there are no gaps to trap your baby’s head and cause suffocation.
- Ensure portable cots are correctly installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If the cot isn’t set up properly, it could collapse with your baby in it and cause suffocation.
- Keep pillows, cot bumper pads, soft toys, cushions, piles of clothing and heavy blankets or quilts out of cots and prams until your child is at least 2 years old.
- Keep hanging mobiles out of your baby’s reach. Also keep mobile strings short.
- Avoid putting your baby to sleep on soft surfaces like couches, sheepskin rugs, beanbags, waterbeds, doonas and loose or fluffy bedding. Babies might roll over into an unsafe sleeping position on these surfaces.
- Put your baby to sleep in their own cot. Co-sleeping can increase suffocation and strangulation risks.
Put your baby in a safe sleeping position, lying down to sleep on their back. Make sure your baby can’t slip down the cot and under their bedding. This can help to protect your baby from sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) including SIDS and fatal sleeping accidents.
Blinds, cords and ropes: preventing strangulation
Simple precautions can reduce strangulation risks from blinds, cords and ropes around your house, especially in children’s rooms:
- Keep all cords out of reach of your child, and move chairs away from blinds so your child can’t climb up to reach cords. You can fit blinds without cords, and curtains with rods instead of cords.
- If your blinds have cords, wrap the cords in a cleat or cord safety device (available from hardware shops) attached to the wall at least 1.6 m above floor level. Make sure any remaining cords are wrapped around the cleat or hidden within the safety device.
- When young children are outdoors, make sure you supervise them if they’re using rope swings because these can be a strangulation hazard.
Clothing: preventing strangulation and suffocation
These general tips can help you reduce your child’s risk of strangulation and suffocation from clothing:
- Always take off your child’s bib or any clothing with a hood before putting your child down to sleep.
- Be aware of cords and drawstrings on parkas and hoodies. Also be careful of scarves. These can catch on play equipment, then pull tight and strangle your child.
- Avoid putting necklaces and other jewellery on your child.
- Make sure your child always removes their helmet after riding or skating. Helmets can get caught on playground equipment.
Furniture: preventing suffocation
Choose sturdy furniture. Also, secure furniture to the wall or floor. This reduces the risk of furniture falling on top of your child, which can be a suffocation risk as well as an injury risk.
Supervise your child when they’re playing outdoors. Outdoor suffocation hazards include wood piles and sand tunnels.