Jul 25, 2012 Post By: Children's Health

Keep bath time special with safety
Daddy Blogger discusses bath safety every parent should know when bathing an infant or young child.

Emmy paying tribute to Alfalfa.

Bath time is a cherished and sacred ritual in our home.

It’s the only consistent time Emmy and I get to spend together by ourselves. She splashes around with her water-squirting farm animals. I listen to the Texas Rangers game on the radio or Mississippi State broadcasts on my phone. And we do our best to remove the caked-on remnants of that night’s menu from her face and body.

It’s usually a time to exhale and appreciate the fact that life allows us moments to slap our palms on the water and listen to games.

But one recent night wasn’t such a breath of fresh air.

I had forgotten my radio. Emmy, performing her usual singing/cooing routine to her tiny horse and cow, seemed totally okay to me. So I left the bathroom to get the radio.

It was only going to take a minute at most. But I only got about six seconds away by the time my wife came after me, sounding like my old coach when I went in the wrong direction during a play.

“Craig! What are you doing? Get back in the bathroom!!!”

Needless to say, I didn’t listen to the Rangers game that night. And Emmy fortunately turned out to be okay, still singing to the horse and cow when I returned.

But I learned from Kristen Beckworth, the Injury Prevention program coordinator at Children’s, that mistakes like mine aren’t always harmless.

Remain within arm’s reach

As horribly prevalent as pool drownings are for children, more infants drown in baths than pools.

“And they are all preventable,” Beckworth said.

The usual scenario is similar to my anecdote. Whoever is monitoring bath time leaves to get a towel, answer the phone or open the front door. The parent thinks the time away from the baby is minimal, but in actuality, it was long enough for something terrible to happen.

It takes only a second for a child to be submerged, a couple of minutes for him to lose consciousness and 4 to 6 minutes for him to drown or sustain permanent brain damage. And the solution isn’t as simple as making sure there isn’t any water in the tub when you leave.

Beckworth recalled an incident last year when a mother left her baby in a bathtub to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer. She hadn’t put any water in the tub yet because she knew the above-mentioned statistics. But while she was away, her other child, a toddler, turned the faucet on.

“By the time the mom returned, the baby was face down and motionless in the water,” Beckworth said.

The baby was fortunately able to be revived, but the harm could have been much worse.

“The bottom line is it’s never safe to leave a young child in the bathtub by themselves,” Beckworth said. “Always remain within arm’s reach.”

Bath Safety tidbits

Here are some other pieces of important bath safety information that Beckworth shared:

  • The bathwater should only be at the level of the child’s waist, which is less than is usually the case (see my picture of Emmy above). A baby can drown in as little as 1 inch of water.
  • Most small children do not yell for help if they’re drowning. So, if a parent is out of the room,  there is usually no way of knowing if your child is submerged.
  • Just because a child can sit up, walk or even swim doesn’t mean that they’re safe in the bath without supervision. She could turn on the hot water and seriously burn herself. Children’s treats several patients who’ve done that every year. As a precaution, set your hot-water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and/or equip your bath faucets with anti-scalding devices that turn the water off if it gets too hot.
  • The suction cups on bath seats don’t adhere well to slip-resistant tubs. So, even if your child is secure in the seat, the seat may not be secure in the tub.