Home, Safe Home
Each year, 2.5 million American children are injured or killed in household accidents -- most of which could be prevented with simple precautions. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises updating safety measures as your child's mobility develops
Sources: Murray Katcher, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on injury and poison prevention; National Safe Kids Campaign; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Healthy Homes Alert; and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
For Newborns and Infants 3 Months and Under:
Check Crib and Playpen
- Don't put pillows, soft bedding, or stuffed toys in your baby's crib -- they create a risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
- Make sure holes in mesh-side playpens are less than 1/4 inch across and free from tears to prevent an infant from becoming trapped.
- Install and use a safety belt on your infant's changing table.
- Be sure your baby is strapped in snugly when sitting in a bouncy seat or swing.
- Place rugs under the changing table and the crib for protection in case of a fall.
Protect Against Burns
- Keep bedding and draperies at least three feet from electrical outlets in use.
- Set your water heater to 120° F or less.
For Babies Who Are Sitting, Crawling, or Cruising:
Prevent Choking and Suffocation
- Keep button-size batteries, coins, small toys -- anything that can fit inside a standard cardboard toilet-paper roll -- out of your infant's reach.
- Remove mobiles and hanging toys from the crib if your baby can touch them.
- Shorten drapery and blind cords; cut any that are looped.
- Remove the cover of, or install slam-proof hinges on, any toy box; if you leave the top on, and if the box is large enough to trap your child, make sure it has adequate breathing holes.
Reduce Risk of Poisoning
- Lock dangerous substances -- alcoholic beverages, cleaning and laundry supplies, medications (including vitamins and nonprescription drugs), bug spray, and pesticides -- in upper-level cabinets.
- Place houseplants out of your child's reach; know the names of your plants in case he eats part of one.
- Post the number of your local poison-control center on all phones.
- Keep a bottle of ipecac as well as activated charcoal in your home, but don't use either unless told to do so by a medical professional.
Prevent Shocks and Burns
- Cover electrical outlets, including those near countertops, with child-resistant covers (some toddlers can pry out plastic plugs).
- Unplug all bathroom electrical appliances not in use and store them away from toilets, sinks, and bathtubs.
- Have an electrician install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) -- which reduce the current when an appliance gets wet -- on outlets near sinks and tubs.
- Place barriers around fireplaces, radiators, and space heaters.
- Put matches and lighters in a latched drawer or cabinet.
Protect Against Falls
- Install hardware-mounted safety gates at tops and bottoms of stairways. (Pressure-mounted ones may not hold back a determined cruiser.)
- Never use accordion-style enclosures (or gates) -- children can get their head caught in the openings.
- Pad the edges of coffee tables.
- Fasten shelves to walls so they don't topple over if a child pulls up on them.
- Position audio and video components out of reach.
For Children Who Are Cruising and Walking:
Once your child is truly mobile, accident-proofing becomes almost a daily chore. Here are some precautions to take throughout your home:
In the Kitchen
- Keep chairs and step stools away from counters and the stove.
- Place knob protectors on the stove; cook on rear burners whenever possible.
- Store cleaning supplies in a locked cabinet.
- Keep electrical appliances unplugged and out of reach.
- Secure knives and other sharp utensils out of reach or in a locked cupboard.
In the Bathroom
- Install toilet-seat locks to prevent drowning, and teach older siblings to close the seat cover and the bathroom door.
- Place nonskid mats or rugs in the bathtub and on the bathroom floor.
- Install child-resistant latches on cabinets and drawers that contain mouthwash, toothpaste, and cosmetics.
- Keep all vitamins and prescription, nonprescription, and herbal medications in their original containers with child-resistant caps, and store them in a latched cupboard.
Throughout the House and the Garage
- Store tools and garden and lawn-care equipment and supplies in a locked closet or shed.
- Place foam-grip guards on frequently used interior doors to prevent them from closing on or pinching fingers.
- Place furniture away from windows.
- Use nonslip rug pads under area rugs.
- Install window guards on windows that are not fire exits. Install bars or screens that only an adult can push open from the inside.
- If possible, carpet stairways.