Childproofing Your Home

jonah in cabinetEach year, 1 out of 4 children 14 years and under suffers injuries serious enough to seek medical attention- nearly, 39,000 every day. These are reported injuries; many more occur but medical assistance is not sought. Many parents will say, “I was right there when it happened…it happened so quickly” or “I didn’t think it would happen to my family”. Unfortunately, unintentional injuries can happen to anyone at anytime.

Young children, under the age of 4 years, are at increased risk of suffering unintentional injuries in the home because that is where they spend the majority of their time. (As children get older, they spend time away from the home causing outside or environmental injuries i.e. bikes, playgrounds, scooters, etc.)

An estimated 90% of unintentional injuries are preventable…

September is Baby Safety Month. The following are a few safety tips to help protect your children from hazards of the home. Common household hazards that contribute to unintentional injury related deaths for infants are suffocation, drowning, fire/burns, falls and poisoning.

Infants must have a safe environment to sleep. Use only cribs that meet all current federal regulations and the mattress must be firm and fit snuggly within the crib. There should be no loose or fluffy bedding/blankets, pillows, stuffed toys or bumpers that can be suffocation hazards. Keep cribs and all other furniture away from windows. Make sure all cords from window blinds, monitors and lamps are safely secured. Infants should lay on their backs to sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS. Have your infant wear a “sleep sack” to keep warm if needed.

Water heaters should be set at no more than 120 degrees. Young children are very curious and love to play in water. It is estimated it takes only 6 seconds to cause a scald burn at 140 degrees vs. taking approximately 5 minutes to receive the same severe burn at 120 degrees. Always cook using the rear burners of the stove. When the oven (or the fireplace) is on, keep children away to prevent burns, as these do remain hot even after they are turned off.  Always have working smoke alarms throughout the home and practice fire escape routes often.

Drowning is a huge hazard for young children. Infants and toddlers have not developed a sense of depth perception and, due to the weight of their large heads, they tend to be top-heavy.  Bathtubs, pools, buckets, landscaping ponds or even toilets all pose a danger to young children, as it only takes a few inches for them to drown. Never leave a child unattended around any water, not even for a couple minutes.

As mentioned before, infants and toddlers tend to be top-heavy, therefore stairs are also a considerable danger to them. Gates must be properly installed at the top and bottom of staircases to prevent falls. Stationary activity centers are a better option than walkers.  An often overlooked fall hazard is windows. Keep furniture away from windows and teach young children to play a safe distance away from windows. In about 80% of the cases of window falls, a screen was present. Screens are not designed to keep a child from falling through. Install ASTM approved safety devices to prevent falls and when all possible, open from the top for ventilation. When not in use, keep all windows locked.

Iowa’s Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222

It is very important to keep all medicines, personal care products, cleaning products, detergents, etc. in original containers and out of the reach of young children. Often, to them these hazards look like candy or drinks they normally consume not knowing they are harmful. Child resistant lids are only a deterrent, not a guarantee they can’t open the container. Install latches/ locks to prevent access to cabinets and drawers. Program into cell phones and post the Poison Control and emergency numbers in the event of an accidental exposure. Take CPR and first aid classes to gain knowledge of what to do in the event of an emergency.

Furniture and TVs must be properly secured to prevent tip-over. Approximately 70 children are injured every day from a tipping piece of furniture, TV or appliance. It is estimated that a child dies every 3 weeks from a TV falling on them and every 2 weeks from having a piece of furniture tip over on them. It doesn’t have to be a large or heavy item, any shelf or drawer provides a climbing temptation, making a piece of furniture front-heavy and causing it to tip.

An easy device to measure potential choking hazards is an empty toilet paper roll. Anything that fits through the tube can become lodged in a young child’s airway.  Balloons are often overlooked as a choking hazard. They are given to children to play with, but when popped, the latex pieces can be easily inhaled causing a dangerous airway obstruction. Button batteries are found in many devices within our homes. Key fobs, remote controls, toys or singing greeting cards all contain button batteries.  Magnets can be found in many homes as well. When swallowed, both of these common objects can become “activated” causing internal burns and other internal organ injuries.

These are just a few safety reminders to help protect your environment. You will need to take a few minutes and get on your hands/knees to explore your home through “your child’s eyes” for specific hazards, from the floor looking up. If you see anything interesting, shiny, and colorful or “toy like,” then that is probably what your child will most likely go toward. It is our job as parents and caregivers to keep a safe environment for our children because they are completely depending on us to protect them. Remember that baby-proofing is not a substitution for proper supervision, but instead, something to slow children down until we can catch up to them.

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