Posts tagged ‘choking’

27 November, 2012

Don’t be too relaxed around nappy sacks

Nappy sacks – flimsy plastic bags used to dispose of soiled nappies – are a relatively recent phenomena for parents.

nappy sacks dangers suffocation choking RoSPA

Parents are advised to never place nappy sacks in a baby’s cot or pram, and to keep them a safe distance away from babies’ and young children’s inquisitive hands at all times.

But these sacks have been implicated in causing the suffocation and choking of babies who are less than one year old, prompting a campaign by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) to warn parents in England and Scotland on the possible dangers.

This issue was first brought to light in September 2010 when a baby died from asphyxia due to a nappy sack. Beth Beynon, child accident prevention co-ordinator for NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly (NHS CIOS), heard about the case through the local Safeguarding Children Board and was part of the NHS team which immediately set about gathering information to develop an understanding of the circumstances and to identify whether similar deaths had occurred elsewhere.

This exercise highlighted that asphyxia from nappy sacks had caused up to 10 known deaths in babies across England and Wales alone.  However, none of these cases had come to the attention of national accident prevention bodies, nor had they been logged on the national Trading Standards database. Each area had assumed their incidents were one-off, isolated cases. Sadly, since then two more deaths have been added to the list bringing the total to 12.

The typical scenario associated with the deaths involves sacks which are stored within the baby’s reach, close to the baby’s cot – including under the mattress usually for convenience. In some of the cases, the nappy sacks had been left near to or in the cot for ease of changing the baby’s nappy in the night.

Babies are at particular risk because despite naturally grasping items and putting them in their mouths, they find it difficult to let go or remove them when in trouble. Once in their mouths, the nappy sack can lead to obstruction of the nose and mouth and prevent babies from inhaling fresh air. The flimsiness of nappy sacks also makes them small enough to fit into little mouths, plus they do not rustle in the same way as plastic bags and can be easily breathed in by babies without parents realising.

Informal feedback from parents and carers and professionals demonstrated that the risk to young babies is compounded by the fact that widespread usage of nappy sacks is a relatively recent phenomenon. Parents and carers are generally aware of the dangers posed by plastic bags, but do not make the same link to nappy sacks and so they are less likely to take the same safety precautions.

The risk of this potential hazard is increased by the lack of mandatory suffocation warning advice on the packaging and the product’s frequent availability as loose bags in a packet, as opposed to supplied on a roll.

Parents are advised to never place nappy sacks in a baby’s cot or pram, and to keep them a safe distance away from babies’ and young children’s inquisitive hands at all times.

Thousands of RoSPA posters and leaflets, warning families of the dangers of leaving plastic nappy sacks lying near babies, are currently being distributed to GP surgeries, parent and toddler groups and other family centres. Any organisations involved with children’s services in England and Scotland can apply for these nappy sack safety leaflets by visiting RoSPA’s nappy sack safety advice page.

Sheila Merrill, RoSPA’s public health adviser

22 November, 2012

Keep the Christmas cheer alive this year – ensure your home is free of fire hazards

I was delighted to have been invited to attend the official press launch of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Services’ marketing campaign recently.

Don't Give Fire a Home Chief Fire Officers' Association of Scotland RoSPA

At the press launch, from left to right, Jacqui Doig (Scottish Community Safety Network), Alex Clark, the new deputy chief of the new (single) Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Elizabeth Lumsden (RoSPA Scotland), Roseanna Cunningham (Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs) and Colin Keir, MSP (Member for Edinburgh Western).

The “Don’t Give Fire a Home” campaign supports the Chief Fire Officers Association of Scotland’s 2012-13 marketing and publicity strategy. The backdrop to the event was a map illustrating the number of fires within domestic dwellings in Scotland. The launch also promoted the roadshow events currently being held around the country, which generate referrals to the Fire and Rescue Service’s free home fire safety visits. Further information on the fire data by local authority area is available at

The launch was covered by STV and there was also interest from various radio stations as well as the printed press. The Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Roseanna Cunningham, attended the event and urged householders not to be complacent as the festive period approaches – a time that traditionally presents a variety of new fire hazards in the home. Ms Cunningham also mentioned the need to have a working smoke detector and urged people to take up the offer of a free home fire safety visit – available from all of the local fire and rescue services.

There were 6,149 dwelling fires in Scotland in 2011-12 and sadly dozens of people die each year.  But what types of fires are happening?  Well, most of the deaths were due to careless use of smoker’s materials and many of the non-fatal casualties happened because of chip pan fires. When we, at RoSPA, speak to people about chip pan fires, the majority will say, “I don’t know anyone who still has a chip pan”. But people do still have them – and leave them unattended for different reasons. One reason is that they have consumed alcohol and fallen asleep in another room while they wait for the pan to heat up. Much safer to collect a bag of chips from the local chippy on the way home!

RoSPA's home safety advice includes the safe use of candles

RoSPA recommends that lighted candles are never left unattended and that they are never positioned in a draught, anywhere near curtains or near any materials, which could ignite.

At RoSPA, we will do what we can to support the Fire and Rescue Services’ campaign again this year. Our advice includes the safe use of candles (a popular Christmas gift) and the dangers of overloading sockets. However, we also draw attention to the fact that being injured in a fire, although causing one of the most serious types of injury – a painful, often life threatening burn – is just one of the many types of accidents that can happen in the home. Falls remain the biggest cause of home accidents – involving all age groups – but we also see incidences of poisoning, choking and drowning. You can see all of our Christmas safety tips at

So, keep safe over the festivities this year. Many of you will be spending extra time in the home while you are away from work. Plan in advance to ensure that you can enjoy a great time without ending up at A&E – or worse…

Elizabeth Lumsden, community safety manager for RoSPA Scotland

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