Your grandmother was right – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We can never completely safety-proof our homes, but it is important to make sure that the highest risk safety concerns are addressed. Infants, toddlers, and young children are at highest risk for poisoning (see separate section), burns, falls, suffocation, and choking hazards. As kids get older, they are at increased risk of drowning, accidental injury by firearms, bike/scooter accidents, and motor vehicle accidents.
Falls – Gravity is not your friend. Falls from windows, down stairs, and off high surfaces are the most common causes of injury. Bedroom and other second-floor (or higher) windows should have bars, double hung windows should be opened from the top, and you should limit the placement of furniture directly under windows to prevent toddlers from climbing up and out. Do not depend on screens to keep children in. Stairs should have gates at the top and bottom. Infants should not be left unattended on changing tables, beds, couches, or any other elevated surface. All infants and toddlers should be buckled in to high chairs and other “high up” locations.
Burns – Most common burns are from bath water, tea/coffee, cooking, irons, and hair straighteners/curlers. The water-heater thermostat should be set no higher than 120F and bath water itself should not be above 105F in order to prevent scald burns in infants and toddlers. Hot drinks should be served on non-slip coasters and should be kept off low coffee tables where small hands can reach. Pot handles should be turned inwards, and infants/toddlers should not be held while cooking. Keep children away from electrical cords attached to curlers, irons, and other electronically heated devices.
Poisons – Household items (laundry pods, cleaning products, detergent, etc…), medications, plants, and some pet foods can all be poisonous. Keep medications and cleaning items locked and out of reach. If there are medications in a diaper bag or purse, keep that out of reach as well. If you are concerned about a possible ingestion call 800-222-1222 to speak with a poison-control specialist immediately.
Choking hazards – anything that can fit through the center of a toilet-paper roll can be a choking hazard for an infant or toddler. Keep small toys (particularly those with removable parts or batteries) out of reach or put them away after use.
Batteries – These are dangerous if swallowed – particularly button batteries. Button batteries can burn a hole through the trachea, esophagus, or intestines in less than an hour. This is an emergency and needs to be evaluated in a pediatric emergency room.
Drowning – Drowning is a silent event and can happen quite quickly. Children should never be left alone near a pool, bath, or other body of water. Unfortunately most accidents occur when there are multiple adults nearby but no single adult “in charge.” Make sure that if you or your child are near water, there is a designated family supervisor for children. This is especially true when first arriving or when packing up to leave.
Firearms – make sure that all firearms are locked, the ammunition is removed, and are in a safe.
Bikes/scooters/skates/etc… – Helmets should be worn at all times while on any of these wheeled devices. Severe accidents can occur in your own driveway or “just going down the block.”
Motor Vehicles – Appropriate weight and age based restraints should be in place for all children. Infants and toddlers should be in a rear-facing carseat until age 2 AND at least 20 pounds. Between ages 2 and 4 AND until at least 40 pounds, children should use a 5-point front-facing harness. Current recommendations suggest keeping children in the 5 point harness until they outgrow the size/weight limitations of the seat. A booster seat should be used for all children until they are BOTH 4 feet 9 inches tall AND 80 pounds (*note this is not an age). Children should not be allowed to sit in the front seat until they are OVER 12 years old (i.e. 13 years old). Seatbelts should be worn by all members of the family in the car – an unrestrained adult in a car accident can cause severe injury to a restrained child.