Child Safety in Your Home | Health, Medicine and Fitness
How can I make my home safe for my child?
Parents constantly worry about how to protect their children from everything – from ill-intentioned strangers to random bullets and stray dogs – but many overlook one of the biggest threats to their children’s safety and well-being. : their own home. Experts say children between the ages of 1 and 4 are more likely to be injured by falls, burns, drowning, choking, cuts or poisoning than by a stranger. As former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said, “If a disease killed our children in the same proportion as accidents, people would demand that killer be stopped.”
There are tons of child safety gadgets on the market to make your home safer. But Anne Altman of Childproofer, a consulting and contracting firm in Forestville, Calif., warns parents that the best protection is still supervision. “I’d rather not recommend a product than suggest one that gives parents a false sense of security,” she says.
Here are some other tips for a safer home:
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- Put safety plugs in all unused electrical outlets or place large furniture in front of them to prevent your child from putting a finger or a toy in the holes. Use outlet covers and outlet plates to protect children from electric shock and possible electrocution, and ensure that your child cannot easily remove the outlet protector.
- Attach padded corner and edge bumpers to sharp corners of furniture like coffee tables and desks. You can also use them on fireplace hearths to cushion falls against a hard brick or metal edge.
- Consider the potential danger of anything you throw in the trash. If you throw away batteries, paper clips, plastic bags or other dangerous items, your trash can should have a childproof lid.
- Keep pens, scissors, letter openers, staplers, paper clips and other sharp instruments in drawers with safety latches or locks. Prevent accidental poisonings by installing latches or safety locks on drawers and cabinets in the kitchen, bathrooms, and other places where your child might reach medicine or household cleaners. Some children are able to open childproof bottles, so lock them too.
- Make sure your child’s toys are age-appropriate. If he continues to explore the world with his mouth, he should never play with balloons, buttons, toys with small parts, or anything else that might choke him. (A 3-year-old should never play with anything smaller than their own mouth.)
- Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and near the bedroom and kitchen. Check monthly to make sure they are working and change batteries annually. A working smoke detector cuts the risk of dying in a fire in half, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector outside your bedrooms, especially if you use gas or oil heating and have an attached garage. If possible, find one that plugs into an electrical outlet and shows you the level of carbon monoxide at all times. If you have a two-story house, put one on each floor.
- Avoid curtains and blinds with drawstrings; dangling cords pose a strangulation hazard. If you must have them, cut the cord loop and tie the cords with window cleats. To order free safety blind cord tassels, call the Window Covering Safety Council at (800) 506-4636 or visit their website at www.windowcoverings.org.
- Place colored stickers on large glass surfaces, such as sliding glass doors, to prevent them from “disappearing”. Always open casement windows from above and equip them with locks so that young children cannot open them. Low windows should not open more than 5 inches; keep furniture and other climbing structures away from them. Use window guards and safety nets for balconies, windows, decks and landings.
- Make sure area rugs have a non-slip back or place non-slip pads underneath; this will help prevent falls.
- Use safety gates and door barriers. Each year, approximately 2.5 million children are treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. Choose a gate that has a straight top edge and a rigid wire mesh to keep your child out of prohibited rooms. Put a safety gate at the top of the stairs and three more steps from the bottom to keep toddlers out of harm’s way. If you have an older safety gate, make sure it doesn’t have a “V” shape large enough for a child’s head and neck to fit through. “And remember,” says Altman, “child safety is an ongoing process: the gate you put at the top of the stairs for your one-year-old may become her favorite climbing structure when she turns 2. .”
- Hide lamp and appliance cords behind heavy furniture or conceal them with a special cord-hiding device. Tall and potentially tilting lamps should be secured behind furniture.
- Use a cordless phone so you can keep an eye on your young children at all times, especially if they’re in the tub, swimming pool, or other dangerous places.
- Use door stops to prevent your child from getting their fingers crushed in the door hinges and install door locks to keep them away from the pool or rooms with potential hazards.
- Put a lock on the toilet to prevent accidental drownings; toddlers can drown in a few inches of water.
- Keep your medications locked up and never leave vitamins within the reach of children: too many vitamins with iron can be deadly.
- Keep first aid supplies on hand and tell babysitters and other caregivers where to find supplies and how to respond in an emergency. Also, make sure your home is poison-proof to protect your children from dangerous substances, including checking household plants to make sure they are all non-toxic.
- Turn the water heater down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, or medium, to avoid burns.
- Avoid buying cards or toys with button batteries. These can kill a child if swallowed.
- Take out the lead. If you live in a building built before 1978, it may contain lead paint. If your child breathes in lead dust or fumes, chews on paint chips or window sills, or swallows anything that contains lead, they may be lead poisoned, which can cause learning disabilities and other neurological problems. If there is lead paint in your home, have it completely removed by a licensed professional trained in hazardous waste disposal or cover it with an approved sealant. you and your child should also stay out of the house until the work is finished. (Do not attempt to remove lead paint yourself: home disposal methods can spread dangerous lead fumes and dust throughout your home.) 5323.
Imported vinyl miniblinds are a much lesser-known source of household lead. A few decades ago, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission discovered that some of these blinds, which use lead as a plastic stabilizer, pose a lead poisoning hazard to young children who touch the blinds and then put on their fingers in their mouth. Look for cartons labeled “lead-free formula” or “no lead added.”
Even if your home is secure enough for children, you still need to adopt safe habits. Cook on the back burners of your stove and keep all pot handles away from the edge of the stove so your child can’t knock them over and burn themselves. Remember that hot objects, especially curling irons, tend to stay dangerously hot for a while after being unplugged. And never leave a young child alone in the bathroom, especially in the bathtub, while you answer the phone. Again, the best protection for children is supervision.
Consumer Product Safety Commission, Childproofing Your Home.
American College of Emergency Physicians, How to Childproof Your Home.
Centers for Disease Control. Health, United States,
National Fire Protection Association. Smoke detectors.
Boston Children’s Hospital. Falls.