Safety, not convenience, comes first when childproofing the home. Busy parents and individuals without children in the home are more likely to store household items with convenience, rather than safety, as the top priority. Curious kids can be very determined, so lock all potentially harmful products out of their reach.
Parents need to examine everything in the home from the vantage point of a young child. Get down on the floor on your hands and knees and explore the home the way a curious young child might. You may feel silly, but taking this precaution is far better than any tragic alternative for your child or loved one.
Cover every room in the home. During your inspection, ask yourself, what looks tempting? What is within reach? Look for potential dangers between the floor and about 40 inches above the floor. Also, check floors and carpets for buried dangers like pins or coins. Remove or correct any potential hazards.
Keep young children out of the kitchen while preparing meals. In fact, play in the kitchen should be discouraged at all times and children should never be in the kitchen unsupervised. Each year, nearly 26,000 children ages 14 and under are treated in emergency rooms for scald burns – a common kitchen hazard. Keep hot foods and liquids away from young children.
Use the back burners on the stove and turn pot handles toward the back of the stove.
Store dangerous items such as knives and potential poisons out of reach. It goes without saying that parents with children in their own homes should follow this safety precaution. If your child is visiting someone else’s home, ensure dangerous items are stored out of reach during your child’s stay, and offer to get safety locks for the kitchen cabinets.
Keep hot food and beverages, glassware and knives away from the edge of counters and tables.
Keep appliance cords, placemats and tablecloths out of reach. Children are naturally curious and may pull on cords, unintentionally pulling the appliance and its scalding contents on themselves. Easily pulled from the table, placemats and tablecloths do not provide a secure place for hot food and/or beverages, which can cause serious burns.
Set hot water heaters no higher than 120 degrees F. A lower water temperature will reduce the chance of scald burns. It takes just three seconds for a child to sustain a third degree burn from water at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which would require hospitalization and skin grafts.
Lock medicine cabinets. Anything that a child can swallow should remain locked out of reach in the cabinet at all times. Even items as seemingly harmless as iron pills are deadly for children and drinking mouthwash can cause a young child to fall into an alcohol-induced coma.
Install toilet locks. Unlike an adult, a young child’s weight is concentrated in the top half of their body. When they lean into a toilet bowl, they may lose their balance, fall forward and drown, in as little as one inch of water.
Request child-resistant packaging. Whenever possible, purchase medications in child-resistant containers. Child-resistant containers may take a moment longer to open, but are much safer when young children are around. But keep in mind that child-resistant does not mean childproof. These medicines still need to be locked up and out of a child’s reach
Keep ipecac syrup in the medicine cabinet. If a child is unintentionally poisoned, treatment may include induced-vomiting by ipecac syrup. Have a one-ounce bottle on-hand for each of your children, but use only on the advice of the poison control center or a physician. Keep these and other emergency numbers by every phone in the home.
Remove sharp utensils and appliances from the bathroom. Razors, scissors and blow dryers are better kept in an adult’s bedroom and locked out of children’s reach.
Beware of old cribs. Baby furniture that was designed when you were a child may be unsafe. Even baby furniture built just a decade ago might not meet some of today’s safety standards. Sharp edges, corner post protrusions and dangerously spaced slats can be deadly to small children. When visiting friends or family, bring portable playpens or cribs that meet current safety standards with you.
Keep beds and cribs away from windows and drapery. Children can unwittingly strangle in drapery cords or fall from windows that are accessible from the bed or crib. Both inner and outer blind cords pose strangulation hazards. Retrofit current blinds with safety devices or consider purchasing cordless window coverings.
Remove matches, lighters, medication and breakable knickknacks from your child’s reach. Children may turn a nap into an opportunity to inventory the bedroom. High closet shelves or locked cabinets are the best storage areas for potentially harmful items.
THE LIVING ROOM AND AROUND THE HOUSE
Check the house for fire hazards. Look for obvious fire hazards such as frayed electrical wires or flammable materials near heat sources such as space heaters. Never run electrical cords under rugs. Make sure your home, and any home your child visits, has working smoke alarms in every sleeping area on every level. Make sure to check the batteries on each alarm monthly and replace annually.
Install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in every sleeping area in your home and check batteries monthly. CO is a colorless, odorless gas produced by fuel burning appliances. Exposure to even low levels of this poisonous gas can be fatal to a small child.
Use safety gates. Each year, more than 2.5 million children are treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. Stairs are particularly dangerous and falls from stairs tend to result in more severe injuries. Use safety gates both at the top and bottom of stairs to keep infants and toddlers out of harm’s way.
Never use baby walkers on wheels. Use walker alternatives or stationary activity centers.
Make sure children play with age-appropriate toys. Not all toys are safe for all age groups. When selecting toys, consider the child’s age, interests and skill level; look for quality design and construction; and follow age and safety recommendations on labels. Use a small parts tester “choke tube” to determine if small toy parts present a choking hazard. Let family and friends know which toys are appropriate for your children. Store those toys intended for older children separately from those meant for younger children.
Cover all unused electrical outlets. Plastic outlet covers help reduce the chance of unintentional shocks and are easy for adults but not children to install and remove.
If firearms are kept in the house, keep locked, unloaded and stored out of reach. Secure ammunition in a separate, locked location.
Post emergency numbers by telephones. Post phone numbers for the poison control center, pediatrician, police, fire department, medical services and a neighbor by every telephone. Make sure babysitters and other caregivers know how to respond in an emergency.
Keep first aid supplies on hand. Make sure parents and other caregivers know where to find the supplies in your home and how to respond in an emergency.
Though it is impossible to remove all of the dangers from your child’s environment, with the proper precautions, your home can still be your haven.