Blind Cords - Preventing Strangulation

Strangulation can be fatal – Blind Cords are particularly dangerous. 

  • 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.
  • Others have been left with permanent brain injury and disability. 

Highlighting the dangers of blind cords

Warning: some viewers may find this video disturbing. It takes only seconds for a toddler to lose their life on a window blind cord

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PNj6rXfLeo

Why is this a risk?

Babies  & Toddlers

  • 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, ribbon, cords and chains; anything that catches their eye.  Toddlers are naturally curious and will climb to reach things that catch their attention.
  • 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.

Strangulation often happens in children’s bedrooms and in living rooms, areas seen as safe. And it happens quickly and silently – children don’t call out to warn carer’s they are in trouble.

  • In their cot. Some babies have been strangled by looped cords hanging into their cot. This could be a drawstring 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.
  • Move the cot away from the window so babies can’t climb up and grab the blind cord. 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.
  • 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.

3-5s

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:

  • Tie up looped blind cords and chains well out of reach of small children.
  • Move children’s beds, cots, highchairs and playpens away from blinds with looped cords.
  • If possible, move other furniture away too, as small children love to climb.
  • If you can, replace your old blinds with blinds that are ‘safe by design’. These are cordless or have concealed or tensioned cords
  • Make sure the cords on the back of Roman blinds are connected with a safety device that breaks away under pressure.

Page last reviewed: 26/10/2023

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