Making Your Kitchen Kid-Safe
by Carol Berkowitz, M.D., president of the American Academy of Pediatrics
No doubt you’ve “babyproofed” your home — covered electrical outlets, locked cabinets, and tied up window cords. But despite your best efforts, there’s one room that still may be hazardous for your child: the kitchen. Many parents aren’t aware of the risk for burns in the kitchen, according to a new study in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). In fact, researchers found that 1-year-olds were at higher risk than other young children for getting hurt in the kitchen, likely as a result of their natural curiosity, newly acquired motor skills, and lack of experience in assessing danger. Here’s what you can do to protect your little one.
Watch your child. In an ideal world, you could always keep your baby safely occupied out of the kitchen while you make dinner. Since there are times when that’s not an option, using a playpen, high chair, or other stationary activity center can keep him out of harm’s way. (Important reminder: Never let your child use a baby walker — it could put him at risk for injury and even death.)
Practice safe cooking. According to the study, one of the most common causes of scalding was a child who reached up and pulled a pot of hot water off the stove or other elevated surface. To prevent this, follow the tips in “What’s wrong with this picture?” below. Also, avoid leaving a hot oven door open, and turn off burners and the oven when you’re not using them.
Be careful with that cup. When you have to walk with a hot liquid, like a mug of coffee, be sure you know where your child is so you don’t trip over him. It’s also a bad idea to hold your baby on your lap while you drink a hot beverage. Place hot liquids and foods away from the table or counter edge and avoid using tablecloths or place mats, as toddlers can pull on them and spill hot items.
Be cautious with appliances. Keep kitchen appliances out of reach, and avoid letting their electrical cords hang over the sides of countertops where your toddler can pull on them. Test microwaved food for heat and steam before giving it to your child. The AAP doesn’t recommend warming a baby bottle in the microwave, since the liquid may heat unevenly and burn your baby’s mouth.
Soothe the pain. If your little one does get burned, immediately run cool water over the injury long enough to bring the temperature down and relieve the pain. Don’t use ice or put butter, grease, or powder on a burn, as all of these home remedies can make it harder for a doctor to treat. If the burn is oozing, cover it lightly with sterile gauze and immediately seek medical attention. If it’s not oozing, cover it with a sterile gauze pad. Consult your doctor if redness and pain continue for more than a few hours. To learn more about protecting your baby from burns in other parts of your home, visit the “Parenting Corner” at www.aap.org.