Children at ‘heightened risk’ of danger in the home during lockdown

Popular TV presenter Jean Johansson is fronting a new campaign highlighting the increased danger posed to young children in the home during lockdown.

Thursday, 4th June 2020, 1:02 pm
Pictured is TV presenter Jean Johansson with a sample of Bitrex which is a bitter tasting chemical that is harmless but tastes awful and can be added to products to prevent accidental poisoning.

The Kenyan-born Scot, who has a nine-year-old son with her former footballer and manager husband, Jonatan Johansson, is the face of the Child Accident Prevention Trust’s annual Child Safety Week, which begins today (Monday 1 June) and runs until Sunday (Sunday 7 June).

She said: “It’s been really hard for parents in lockdown, especially with small children. Having to cook more meals, doing food shopping, clearing up the constant mess at home all while trying to home school and keep children occupied. And that’s without the usual support of school, nursery, family or friends.”

To highlight the dangers found in everyday household products such as washing up liquid and gel laundry capsules, Jean sampled a strip of foul-tasting ingredient, called Bitrex, listed in The Guinness World Records as the bitterest substance in the world. Bitrex is a partner in Child Safety Week.

“Bitrex is put into some household products to keep children safe,” said Jean. “The idea is that if they bite into, for example, a gel laundry capsule which looks inviting but is actually toxic, they will immediately spit it out. Having tasted it, I can see why. It’s absolutely disgusting!”

The Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) is warning that over 80% of the most serious accidents to under-fives happen at home. And with young children spending far more time at home, as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, exposure to risk has been heightened.

Cleaning products and laundry tablets are common threats, as are painkillers and the button batteries powering many household devices. Young children also risk burns from hot drinks, hair straighteners and hot baths.

The risk of youngsters swallowing cleaning products is greater than ever, claims the charity, given the new emphasis on hygiene.

A familiar face as the presenter on Channel 4’s A Place in the Sun, as well as her role as roving reporter on the BBC’s The One Show, Jean Johansson has joined forces with the charity to remind people to be aware of the dangers during this unusual time.

Jean said: “When my son Junior was born, I felt like most mums – knowing you were responsible for another person was overwhelming. Right away you have a lot to learn and you have to learn on the job.

“It’s hard to keep on top of all the information out there but I think the Parents’ Pack the charity is offering, which can be downloaded from the website, is an invaluable and simple guide to keeping your children safe at a time when most of us are at home.”

Katrina Phillips, Chief Executive of CAPT said: “Even though the lockdown has eased slightly, the pandemic is piling extra pressure on families. And risks to young children are heightened now they’re spending so much time at home. We hope our pack will reassure parents that they can take on child safety and win, even when they’re feeling overwhelmed.”

Accidents are one of the biggest killers of children in the UK, second only to cancer, and a leading cause of hospital admissions and acquired disability. Every year, 55 under-fives die owing to an accident in their home and 40,000 are admitted to hospital in an emergency. In Scotland, 7,205 children were admitted to hospital after an accident last year.