Choking and Suffocation Risk to Babies

ROSPA campaign to raise awareness

Posted on: 11/08/2015   By: Lee Rance

I recently became aware of the ‘Nappy Sacks Campaign’ introduced by ROSPA to raise awareness of the dangers that nappy sacks can pose to babies. This came after at least 16 babies in England and Wales have died from choking or suffocating on them.

One of the most recent cases happened in February 2014 when a three-month-old baby suffocated after a plastic nappy sack blew onto her face while she was sleeping. The window in the room did not close properly and a draft from the open window blew the nappy sack over the baby’s face.

The campaign was started in 2010 after the death of a local baby due to asphyxia from a nappy sack was brought to the attention of Beth Beynon, Child Accident Prevention Co-ordinator for NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly.

Campaign founder Beth Beynon said:  “We started to look to see if this had happened anywhere else, and we found that over the last 10 years there had been up to 11 cases where young babies had died in similar circumstances.

“If we can take this campaign out to communities and reach parents, grandparents and carers we will have achieved one giant step towards preventing any more babies from needlessly dying.”

Ms Beynon said the thin plastic nappy bags can cling. She said babies have a natural reflex to grab at things and pull them towards their mouths but they cannot pull them away. Often nappy sacks, along with nappies, wipes etc, are kept near the cot for convenience. The ROSPA campaign has these tips:

  • Always keep nappy sacks and other plastic bags or wrapping away from babies and young children
  • Never place nappy sacks in a baby’s cot or pram
  • Buy nappy sacks on a roll if possible

Dr Julia Harvey, a consultant community paediatrician for the Royal Cornwall Hospital, said: “New-born babies and babies up to six months of age do have primitive reflexes which are involuntary muscles movements that are controlled by the central nervous system but they have no conscious thought involved.”

The ROSPA website has a tool-kit for local practitioners containing resources and information available for download including:

  • An A5 safety warning designed to fit inside the child health record / red book.
  • Poster and information leaflet e.g. for display in a range of public locations including GP practices, health visiting clinics, children’s centres and family information services.
  • Height chart – highlights the most common home accidents involving under-fives, including falls, burns and scalds and poisoning, and gives prevention tips.
  • Safety video.

If you would like any advice on health and safety or environmental matters, give us a call on 01908 632418 or send an email.

Until next time.

Lee Rance.