The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) reports that over 12,000 children and teens die every year in the United States from unintentional injuries. The CDCP also reports that many of those injuries occur in the home.
Both toddlers and babies can get into more trouble than you might think. Some baby-proofing ideas may seem like common sense, such as covering electrical outlets and making sure all cabinet doors are secured, but often overlooked dangers around the house include door knobs/handles and dishwasher doors. The best prevention is keeping a watchful eye on your toddler at all times, but in reality, that's just not possible. No matter whether you are new to parenting and preparing for your bundle of joy, or you have a toddler that is just beginning to walk, the items listed below can assist you in making your home safer.
Drawers and cabinets
Drawers and cabinets – in your kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, and even bedroom, often times have potentially dangerous items such as detergents, pods, cleaners, wipes, sprays, batteries, pocket knives and other sharp objects that can cause harm to your child unattended. Oftentimes these items are of interest due to their bright coloring and shiny containers. Cleaning solutions are generally toxic and very harmful and potentially fatal if they are breathed in, swallowed, or come in contact with the eyes or skin. Doctors recommend that you have one location for all of your cleaning supplies, and make sure that it's both out of reach of children, and securely locked. Safety hooks/latches are also a good investment for all drawers and cabinets while your children are young enough not to know better.
Ovens and stoves
Ovens and stoves can get very hot and at times be deceptive as to just how hot they really are, increasing the risk of your children getting burned if they touch either of these. And, if they are not securely attached to a wall, the appliances may be pulled over on top of a child. The best way to prevent the potential for injury to small children is to keep them from the kitchen all together. Keeping your children safely in their highchairs, occupied in their playpens or in another room with you works best. Anchor your appliance to a wall and test it to make sure that it's secure. Be mindful of the handles belonging to pots and pans that are resting on the top of the stove, especially if they have hot water, oil, or food in them. They may be easily pulled off by a toddler. Face the handles inward toward the middle of the stovetop and use back burners when possible.
A toilet can be very appealing in the curious eyes of a toddler. They are not only able to put their head down in the toilet and drink from it, there is even more danger with the potential for them drowning. You should always make sure that the toilet seat and lid are down and purchase toilet locks and latches. Remember, it only takes a few moments for a toddler to drown. There are several companies that manufacture toilet locks, making it near impossible for a child to open. To help you, your family, and guests remember to put the toilet seat and lid down. Try putting a sign nearby as a way to remind everyone.
Dishwashers can be a haven for sharp surfaces, starting with the sharp knives, forks, and other kitchen utensils that are inside. And, don't forget about the detergents, sometimes in pods, that can be a choking hazard, or cause harm to the eyes and skin. They could also be fatal if ingested. Be sure to close your dishwasher anytime you are not using it. Place knives, forks, and other sharp utensils face down when possible. Put the dishwashing detergent and related products in just before you start a load.
It's amazing how many doors that our homes can have, and the difficulty it can cause a small child if they can access those rooms. Invest in doorknob covers and childproof locks for your sliding doors. You won't want your child wandering around outside unattended. Be sure to watch out if you have swinging doors. Small children don't really understand the concept and may get injured.
Beware of furniture, like beds, dressers, coffee tables and end tables. They may have sharp edges or corners on them. Small children don't have very good balance and they could fall or bump into the furniture, causing cuts and bruises. They may also be able to pull the furniture over on to them. Make sure that you fasten any furniture that is top heavy to a wall using brackets, straps or braces. Furniture that has sharp edges or corners should have bumpers, which soften the surfaces and help prevent injury. When possible, use bumpers on window sills and fireplace hearths. Children are naturally curious, just like you when you were that age.
Blinds and curtains
Blind cords and curtains can be dangerous for the children. According the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, at least one child per month dies due to a window-covering cord. Tie all window and drapery chords up, using safety tassels. Another good idea is to avoid placing your child's bed, crib, or playpen near curtains or blinds.
Tip: Be prepared for emergencies by starting early
Start baby-proofing your home now, even if you are still expecting. It will be easier to identify areas of concern when your baby has not yet arrived. Keep in mind that once your child has arrived, they start to roll, crawl, and move about your home before you realize it. Be proactive with the safety of your child, keep your eyes on them as much as possible. It only takes a moment for danger to find them. Be prepared for an emergency, making sure you:
- Keep a cell phone or landline phone near you, in case you need to call 911, or the Poison Control hotline number: 1-800-222-1222
- CPR and the Heimlich maneuver are great first-aid techniques every parent and family member should learn from certified instructors
- Have important phones numbers easily accessible for yourself, babysitters, local police department, fire department, parents, neighbors, and friends and other family members who may be able to assist you on a dime's notice.
- Plan out a fire escape route and plan. Have your family practice it at least a couple times a year.
The bottom line is that children will get little bumps and bruises despite your best efforts, but by taking these necessary precautions you will help minimize the frequency of such accidents as well as the severity.
Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children believes strongly in injury prevention. Our mission is to prevent unintentional injuries from happening in all ages of life and preserve quality of life. Unintentional injuries include those that result from motor vehicle collisions, falls, poisonings, drowning, and recreational and sports-related activities.