According to the CDC, an average of 12,175 children (under 19) die each year from an unintentional injury, and 9.2 million are hospitalized with a nonfatal unintentional injury. Most children were injured as a result of falls, with 2.8 million American children taken to the Emergency Department each year from a fall. 50% of nonfatal injuries for children under one are as a result of a fall.
THE MAJORITY OF NONFATAL INJURIES FOR CHILDREN IN THE UNITED STATES ARE CAUSED BY:
For children under the age of 10
- Being struck by or against an object
- Animal bites or stings
For children 10-14 years old
- Being struck by or against an object
For children 15-19 years old
- Being struck by or against an object
- Motor vehicle occupant injuries
The following is a room-by-room guide for scanning for potential hazards and taking steps to reduce the risks they pose to your children.
Most families with young children spend a great deal of time in the kitchen. The presence of sharp knives, open flames, and hot surfaces mean that the kitchen can be a very dangerous place for a baby, toddler, or even a young child.
As a general rule, children should never be left unsupervised in the kitchen – there’s simply too much scope for danger. In addition, go through your kitchen and check the following.
Walk through your kitchen and dining area and cover all sharp edges at child height with cushioning. Children running around can easily lose balance and a sharp edge turns a fall into a more serious issue.
In general, everything should be out of reach of a child – whether by placing on a high shelf or behind a locked door.
Your garbage can may also present a hazard, so install a latch on the lid, or use a child-resistant garbage can.
Install locks on all cabinets that children can reach.
The most important of these are the cabinets (usually under the sink) where bleach and other cleaning chemicals are kept. However, even things like spices can be toxic to children.
The stove is a major area of potential danger. Undertake regular maintenance checks to ensure that there are no leaks, pilot lights function properly, and the burners are free from debris that can catch fire.
- Whenever possible, use the back burners. A common cause of accidents is a child reaching up and pulling over a pot of hot liquid over themselves. Using the back burner removes this temptation. In addition, if you do use the front burners, turn the handles away from reach.
- Cover the knobs with childproof covers or remove the knobs completely (and replace them when you need them) so that a child cannot turn on the burners.
In general, you should keep your child away from the oven. When opening, a child may reach in to grab items or get blasted by the hot air.
Use a childproof latch so they cannot open the oven when you are not looking.
Check the exterior of your oven. If the installation is poor, some of the space around the oven may heat up.
If this is the case, either repair the installation or install a baby gate to keep your child out of the kitchen.
- Childproof latches are also necessary on the refrigerator and freezer.
- Although small magnets may seem like a fun addition to a fridge, items that are too small may be choking hazards, so make sure that all items are large enough that your child can’t put them in his or her mouth.
Never let dishwasher detergent sit in the dishwasher unattended before you are ready to run a load.
Detergents can be toxic to a child if ingested.
Small children are capable of dragging stools over to the sink to play with the water from the faucet. Another childproofing consideration is to install a device that sets a limit on the heat level that your water can reach to prevent scalding.
DINING AREA BABYPROOFING
The dining area, while not as dangerous as the kitchen, may provide additional hazards.
For example, chairs placed away from the table (i.e. not tucked fully under the table) may provide a toddler with a useful step to climb up on the table.
If your table has a center pedestal, rather than four legs, a child climbing on it will lead it to tip over.
- Similarly, it is best to take the cloth off the dining table if you are not using it. A child could easily grab this and pull everything off the table.
- It’s also best to store any china and dishes in a cabinet when not in use for the same reason.
- Anchor any shelves, bar carts, detached storage cabinets to the wall. This will prevent children from being able to tip over objects onto themselves.
A kid’s bedroom should be a haven of safety. After all, they spend (in theory) at least eight hours a night in there, and a safe bedroom can also be a good place for a child to play.
GO THROUGH YOUR CHILD’S BEDROOM AND BEGIN BY TAKING THE FOLLOWING STEPS:
Placing socket protectors on all the
outlets. Although the plastic outlet plugs are common, they may actually present a choking hazard for young children. Furthermore, they may encourage children to play with outlets (because they look like toys).
Therefore, the safest option is to place new outlet covers on with closable outlet slots.
Use straps to anchor large pieces of furniture to the wall.
In the case of drawers, children can easily tip over drawers by climbing on the bottom set. In addition, furniture straps will provide an extra level of safety in the case of an earthquake.
Use corner protectors on the edges of all furniture to prevent kids from hurting themselves on sharp edges.
Your child’s crib can also present a danger from suffocation.
- As such, you should make sure that the crib has a firm mattress that fits flush with the edge of the crib.
- For the first six to 12 months, children should sleep without anything else in the crib, including stuffed animals and blankets. These can cause a suffocation hazard in the night.
- Remove bumper pads from the crib for the same reason.
When your child is old enough to walk, redo your ‘safety inventory’ factoring in the potential for climbing when determining hazards. Your child will be able to stand on objects to reach additional dangers. Continuing to lower the position of your crib mattress as your child grows will help prevent this.
Bath time can be fun for those with young children. Watching them splash in the water and play with new toys is always fun. However, as can be expected, the dangers that come from water means you need to be extra vigilant when it comes to bathrooms.
First of all, never leave your child unattended in the bathroom, especially while in the bathtub. Children can drown in less than 2 inches of water, so even if it seems unlikely to you that anything bad could happen, it is important that you supervise your child at all times.
HERE ARE SOME OTHER BATHROOM BABYPROOFING AREAS TO COVER:
- Set your water heater to 120 degrees as an upper limit. This will prevent your child from scalding –
even if they do access the hot tap.
- Place non-slip mats on the floor of your bathroom, including inside the tub.
- Cover the bathtub spout with a childproof cover (these come in different animal shapes and colors) so that if your child does hit their head on it, it is soft instead of hard metal with sharp edges.
Place a ‘toilet lock’ on the lid of your toilet. This will prevent the child from playing and potentially falling in.
It is a good idea to lock the trashcan in this room as well.
MEDICINE, SHARP OBJECTS, ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES
- Place all medicine in a locked medicine cabinet.Ideally, this will be in a separate room from the one children use.
- Any razors, tweezers, and other sharp objects should be locked in a cabinet or placed high up.
- Unplug (and remove) all electrical appliances from the bathroom when not in use. For example, hairdryers or hair straighteners should be placed in a drawer when not in use.This is especially true because both present a burn hazard. Nothing should ever be plugged in near the bathtub.
You should also work to teach your child that the bathroom is not a place to play. Consider door knob covers as a way to prevent children from accessing bathrooms when you’re not there.
The structure of the house may not seem like an obvious thing to babyproof.
However, large structures, and the way that they are attached to the walls, or placed in the room, can have major ramifications for the safety issues and potential dangers.
THEREFORE, YOU SHOULD ALSO RUN AN INVENTORY OF THE FOLLOWING:
- Are there any nails hanging loose in the wall?
- Is everything mounted securely – particularly large picture and mirror frames?
- Is there a finger-pinch guard on the doors to stop children from getting their hands caught in the door frame?
- Is all the furniture placed away from the windows to stop children being in danger of climbing or falling out?
- Do any window blinds have cord ties so that they don’t hang at child level?
- Do toy chests and other chests have safety hinges to prevent them from closing fully on children (if not, you should install them).
- As mentioned previously, make sure to anchor all large objects and cabinets to the wall.
Again, this inventory needs to be an ongoing process; as your child gets older, there will constantly emerge new threats and hazards and, as a result, you will need to keep baby-
and kid-proofing the objects in your home.
Basements can be an intriguing play area for kids, particularly if the door is usually closed.
Most people don’t allow their children to play in the basement, and so don’t think too much about the potential hazards in there. However, seemingly simple things like puddles of water in the basement can lead to dangers like flooding, water damage, and even mold risks.
Therefore, putting up strong protections for children in the basement is essential.
AS SUCH, RUN AN INVENTORY OF YOUR BASEMENT TO CHECK THE FOLLOWING:
Most basements are accessible by a non-kid friendly staircase. If that’s the case in your home, install a baby gate at the top of the stairs.
You should also look to install a lock or a door cover if you don’t want your child from ever opening the door.
Because the basement can be home to the home’s utilities (such as washer and dryer), and often a room where items are stored away from children, it can become a repository for chemicals that are extremely unsafe for children.
Fluids such as paints, especially lead paints, paint thinners, and other cleaning products are all extremely toxic when ingested.
All chemicals should either be stored high up on shelves or in a locked cupboard.
Basement flooring is often unfinished concrete, which is not child-friendly.
If carpeting is not a viable option, adding a large rug or rubber flooring will help cushion your kids’ falls. Also, consider basement waterproofing methods to keep the space dry and mold-free.
SHELVES AND STORAGE
All shelving and storage should be secured to the wall to prevent them from tipping over. This is especially true if you live in an earthquake area, where all your bulky furniture should be secured to the wall.
SWIMMING POOL BABYPROOFING
Pools are some of the most common sources of danger for young children.
Even if your child knows how to swim, it is imperative that they are supervised at all times around the pool.
HOWEVER, THERE ARE ADDITIONAL SAFETY DEVICES YOU CAN USE:
A pool cover is one of the safest options for keeping a child out of a pool, and – in the case of very small children – can often remove the temptation by keeping the water out of sight.
However, you should not rely on a cover exclusively to keep children out of the pool.
In some areas, a pool fence is a compulsory part of the building code. If you do have a fence, be sure to keep all the furniture away from the fence so that children can’t climb over.
You should also look to install a pool alarm as children may look to sneak into your home at night and you are potentially liable for any injury in the event that they do.
Ultimately, it is not possible to totally eliminate risk, especially if you have a toddler or baby. Both have an impressively creative capacity to find danger and get themselves into trouble.
However, by addressing the most common sources of danger for children, you can mitigate the risk inherent in any home.
This will help you to reduce the severity of any injury that does take place and to potentially avoid accidents in the first place.
SOURCES AND FURTHER READING