Approximately 2,096 children in the United States, ages 14 and under, die from accidental injuries in the home each year and 3 million kids are treated in emergency rooms for accidental injuries occurring at home. In 2004, approximately 2,300 children ages 14 and under died from unintentional injuries that occurred in the home and nearly 80 percent of these deaths were among children ages 4 and under. Most fatal injuries at home are caused by fire, suffocation, drowning, choking, falls, poisoning or firearms discharged unintentionally.
Safe Kids Mid-Texas urges parents and caregivers to check their homes for basic safety precautions. “There’s no substitute for active supervision, but childproofing your home provides extra protection and peace of mind,” says Susan Burchfield, Safe Kids Mid-Texas coordinator. “It’s easy to eliminate the most obvious hazards — and it doesn’t have to involve a lot of expensive equipment.”
The first step in childproofing a home is to explore every room at a child’s eye level. “Literally get down on your hands and knees and crawl around. You’ll be surprised at how much you can reach and how many small objects you can pick up,” says Ms. Burchfield. “Anything that can fit through a standard 1½-inch toilet paper tube is a potential choking hazard. Of course, cleaning products, medications, alcohol, firearms and other potentially harmful products need to be stored out of reach and locked up.”
Safe Kids Mid-Texas also recommends these precautions:
- Test your smoke alarms every month: Make sure you have working smoke alarms in every level of your home, outside each sleeping area and in every bedroom. Also, check for fire hazards such as frayed electrical wires or flammable materials near heating appliances.
- Always supervise children while they’re in the bathroom and follow other important safety guidelines. Set your water heater at 120 degrees F and test the bathwater with your wrist or elbow before putting your child in it. Keep toilet lids closed and locked, and doors to bathrooms and utility rooms closed. When not in use, put razors, curling irons and hair dryers out of reach. Never leave young children alone in the bathtub – a child can drown in a matter of seconds.
- Install a self-closing and self-latching gate around the home swimming pool. Make sure the fence surrounds the entire pool. Pools and hot tubs look inviting and a cover is enough to keep an interested child out of danger.
- Look at every room as your child would. Ask yourself what looks interesting and what can be reached. Get down on your hands and knees, and check for small things children can choke on such as jewelry, coins, small toy parts, buttons, pins, nails, batteries and stones. Be sure to keep all plastic bags out of reach and cover electrical outlets that are not in use.
- Always supervise young children while they’re eating. To avoid choking, don’t allow children under age 3 to eat small, round or hard foods, including hot dogs, hard candy, nuts, grapes and popcorn.
- Prevent serious falls. Keep furniture away from windows, install guards or stops on windows that are not emergency exits, install safety gates at the top and the bottom of stairs. Check playground equipment for broken or missing pieces. Use a protective surfaces beneath playground equipment.
- Avoid exposing children to potential poisons. Lock up potential poisons out of children’s reach. Remember cleaning supplies, pet food, medicine, vitamins, beer and liquor, fertilizer and plant food can all be dangerous. Read labels and follow directions when giving medicine to children. Know which houseplants are poisonous and keep them where children can’t reach them.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors in every sleeping area and test them every month. This invisible, odorless gas can be fatal. Make sure heating systems are vented outside and checked every year.
- Keep guns locked, unloaded and where kids can’t reach them. And lock up ammunition in a separate place.
- Keep emergency numbers by every telephone. Call 911 if a child is choking, collapses, can’t breathe or is having a seizure. If you suspect a child has been poisoned, call 1-800-222-1222.
- Check your first aid kit to make sure it is fully stocked. Make sure babysitters know where to find first aid supplies and how to handle an emergency.
“Safety comes first, even if it means making your home a little less convenient for adults,” says Ms. Burchfield. “Safety gates and cabinet locks are a small price to pay to keep a child out of the emergency room.”
For more information about kitchen safety, window blinds, cribs, windows, furniture and other hazards around the home, call Safe Kids Mid-Texas at 254 724-1431.
Safe Kids Mid-Texas is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids Mid-Texas was founded in 2009 and is led by the Scott & White Trauma Center.