Your home can be a familiar place of comfort for your children, but certain everyday items around the house can also pose a risk to their safety.
“More than a third of children’s traumatic injuries and deaths happen inside the home,” says Marisa Abbe, Ph.D., CPSTI, Manager of Injury Prevention at Children’s Health℠. “Younger children are at greatest risk because they are home the most.”
As a pediatric Level I Trauma Center, Children’s Medical Center Dallas cares for hundreds of severely injured children each year. Dr. Abbe focuses her work on helping parents prevent these injuries.
“Childproofing is difficult to do because children change so rapidly, so the risk factors change over time,” says Dr. Abbe. “What we really suggest parents do is get at their child’s eye level, even down on your hands and knees, and go around your house. Experience the world from your children’s point of view so you know how to protect them.”
To keep your child safe from serious dangers, Dr. Abbe also suggests following these tips.
Follow bath safety rules
Behind car crashes, drowning is the most common cause of death for young children. Children can drown in as little as an inch of water in the bathtub. If you are bathing your child, especially if your child is under the age of 2, you should never, ever step away from the bathtub for any reason.
Use barriers around home pools
Home pools also pose a drowning risk to children. Dr. Abbe says almost half of children that drowned in North Texas were not swimming at the time, but wandered outside or fell in the pool while playing. This can happen year-round, and can be even more dangerous during the winter months when pools are not top of mind.
“We really want to stress that if there is a pool you need to have a fence or barrier to prevent kids from escaping the home and into the pool unnoticed,” says Dr. Abbe. “It is impossible to watch kids 24/7. The more barriers between your child and something dangerous, the better.”
Dr. Abbe suggests using a fence around the pool with a self-latching lock that children cannot reach. You can also use alarms on the back door so children cannot go outside without notice. You should enroll children in swimming lessons at a young age. See more pool safety rules.
Create a safe space to sleep
For infants or newborns, you need to ensure they are sleeping safely. Your child’s sleeping space, whether it is a crib, pack-and-play or bassinet, should be flat and firm. It should be free of any toys, blankets, pillows or bumpers that could pose a suffocation hazard.
How you put your child to sleep matters, too. You should always put infants to sleep on their backs. Once they learn to roll over on their own, they can sleep on their stomachs.
New American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines also suggest that to reduce the risk of suffocation or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), your child should sleep in the same room as you for six months. However, you should never share a bed with your baby, which can increase their risk for death.
Lock away guns
At least half the homes in Texas have at least one firearm on the property. If you do have a gun, you should ensure it is unloaded, locked and stored away in a safe place. You can use trigger locks, gun safes and gun cabinets to help protect children.
“If your child is going to play at another child’s home, you should ask the parents if they have a gun in the home,” says Dr. Abbe. “It can be a touchy subject, but it’s okay for parents to ask and ensure it is stored and locked properly.”
Childproof important storage spaces
Keep the following materials that can poison your child locked up and away from reach:
- Cleaning supplies
“Sometimes what we miss in the kitchen is locking up cleaning supplies,” says Dr. Abbe. “You can install really inexpensive latches on cabinets and drawers to keep curious children from opening them.”
Though you might not think of vitamins as a danger to children, too many vitamins can lead to poisoning. Since children’s vitamins and medicines are often sweetened in liquid or gummy form, children can be poisoned by drinking or eating too many.
Dr. Abbe also says all parents should know the number for poison control: 1-800-222-1222. Keep this number in your phone or in an easy to access location, like on the refrigerator.
“You should always call poison control before calling 911 because you can get the information you need faster,” says Dr. Abbe.
Install window guards
Falling is a major hazard for children in the home. Some of the most traumatic falls come from falling out a window. Dr. Abbe suggests installing window guards or locks that prevent windows from opening more than six inches. These devices allow a breeze in without increasing the risk for falls.
“Many parents think screens are strong enough to keep kids from falling,” says Dr. Abbe, “but that is not the case. Screens can’t stand the weight of children.”
In addition, window blind cords can pose risk of strangulation for children. Parents should ensure that any window blind cords are completely out of reach of children.
Anchor furniture and TVs
Dr. Abbe says that the trauma team at Children’s Health has seen an increase in devastating furniture tip-over injuries, also called crush injuries. While in the past, tube TVs were too heavy for children to tip over, new flat-screen TVs can topple, bringing down dressers or bookshelves and seriously injure children.
To help protect your child, you should anchor all furniture including TVs, shelves, dressers, desks and other items, to the wall. You can purchase furniture tethers at home improvement stores to secure these items.
While there are many other ways to childproof your home, these seven steps are an important start to keeping your child safe from serious dangers.
“These small changes parents make really do have a huge impact on the safety of their child,” says Dr. Abbe.
Learn more about how Children’s Health provides advanced care for trauma and emergencies.
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