We’ve got a difficult to read real-life story for you this week. A mum who attended one of our classes bravely shared her story in the hopes that other parents can avoid the same accident happening to their child. Beth’s 3 year old daughter Holly was almost strangled by a door curtain. We’ve changed the names at the family’s request.
Hi Beth, can you tell us a little about your lovely daughter Holly?
Holly is 3 years old and has always been advanced for her age. She was walking by 10 months old and talking in sentences at age 1. Many people would comment on how advanced she was and how lucky we were. Of course we were blessed but her being so switched on had its own problems, starting with her ability to work out any sort of baby proofing device and always having an answer for everything. You have to be one step ahead of her!
What was happening on the day the strangulation accident took place?
Her baby brother was at his grandma’s house so Holly was spending the morning with me, her daddy and our family dog in the local park. We returned to grandma’s house and me and Holly went in through the front door with daddy and our dog going around the back so daddy could hose him off as he was muddy. Grandad went to open the back door and meet daddy.
Could you tell me about the accident in your own words please Beth?
Because we’d gone through different doors, Holly wanted to go out to daddy whilst grandma handed her baby brother over to me. Grandma shouted “grandad is she with you”, and he replied “yes we have her”. So myself and Holly’s grandma continued our conversation.
We heard a scream - the scream you know when your child is seriously hurt. The one that takes your breath away and makes you run the fastest you possibly can and all the hairs on your body stand on end.
We headed towards the scream and found Holly hanging in the door curtains. Grandma grabbed the baby from me and I managed to release Holly. It was apparent she was badly hurt and had struggled for breath. It was an absolute godsend that she could scream out.
She had grabbed the door curtains in two hands so they were divided and just as grandad said “leave the curtains” she managed to swing herself around. The door slammed closed with grandad and daddy on the outside, and Holly was in the inside hanging. Thankfully daddy and grandad did not try to open the door. Had they of, I’m not sure we would have been so fortunate. It all happened within seconds. Literally seconds with four adults present who are all first aid trained and able to risk assess. It was a complete “freak accident”.
Oh my goodness Beth, it must have been terrifying to find Holly like that . .
I can honestly say I have never felt anything like it in all my life. I thought she was gone. I felt sick, scared, shocked and in disbelief that it had happened. None of us slept that night or for several nights afterwards.
What did you do immediately after the accident?
I just sat with Holly holding her for such a long time whilst applying a cold compress to her neck. We used arnica cream to help with the bruising. Holly was checked over by medics and thankfully it was deemed no further action was needed.
Apologies for the blurriness, but the image above shows Holly's injury after being released from the curtain
Were you aware these type of curtains could be dangerous?
We were fully aware of the risks with the door curtains. They are usually fully tied back and the children are repeatedly reminded to not touch them and why. Our daughter knew prior to the incident not to touch them.
Beth, what message would you like to give other parents to help prevent further accidents?
If you have these curtains or room dividers take them down. They will never be seen again at my Mum-in-law’s house. The thought of what happened in that split second still makes us all feel physically sick. It is absolutely not worth the risk. We are all overprotective of our daughter because of her personality and still this incident occurred. We will forever feel guilty and feel like we failed to protect her. We are just so unbelievably grateful that she was not seriously harmed and has made a full recovery.
Unfortunately Beth and Holly’s story is not a one off. Asphyxia (including choking, strangling and suffocation) is actually the second most common cause of accidental child death in the UK after road traffic accidents. Curious toddlers are especially vulnerable to strangulation because their heads weigh proportionately more than their bodies compared to adults. Also, their muscle control isn’t fully developed, which makes it harder for them to free themselves if they get tangled up. Blind cords are often the culprits, and terrifyingly it can take just 15 seconds for a toddler to lose consciousness if they get tangled in a blind cord, with death occurring in just 2 or 3 minutes.
We urge you to remove any trailing door curtains (like the ones pictured above) and room dividers but also check any blind cords in your house have a hook to allow you to tightly secure them out of your child’s reach. Also make sure the cords on the back of Roman blinds are connected with a safety device that breaks under pressure.
Beth, thank you so much for sharing this story with us so that other parents are made aware of the strangulation dangers these curtains can pose. It can’t have been easy to share this story and we are so grateful that you did. Awareness saves lives and should never be underestimated.
Mini First Aid x
Sources: Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT)
In 2020 over 60,000 children were admitted into hospital in the UK as a result of accidents in the home that could have been prevented. Our baby proofing course is ideal for parents of children from 6 months of age and is designed to help you spot and prevent potential accidents before they happen. You can find out more here
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