Home should be a place of security and safety for children. Home, however, can also be a place of danger. According to the Home Safety Council, home injuries are a leading source of accidental death for children. Almost 21 million medical visits and 20,000 deaths annually are the result of an accident in the home.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of two children die each day from poisoning; drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages one to four; the leading cause of death for children under age one is suffocation; and the leading cause of non-fatal childhood injuries is falls.
Here’s a look at some household dangers and how to address them.
Water: Never leave a child unattended near water, even for a few seconds. Children can drown in less than an inch of water. If a child is missing, always check bodies of water (pool, bathtub, hot tub, fish pond) first.
Scalding burns from hot water is also a potential danger. Lower your water heater setting to 120 degrees to avoid scalding by water that comes out of the bathtub or sinks. Test bath water temperature to make sure it’s at a comfortable temperature for your child before placing your child in the tub.
Suffocation: Suffocation is the leading cause of unintentional death among children younger than four. According to the National Safety Council, 1,124 children age four and younger died in 2017 as a result of mechanical suffocation (the inability to breathe due to strangulation or smothering by bed clothes, plastic bags, or similar materials) or choking.
SafeKids.org offers sleep safety tips to avoid impaired breathing or suffocation in infants and for infant safety.
- Make sure the crib meets Consumer Safety Product Safety Commission and Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association standards.
- If you can fit a soda can between the crib’s slats, a child’s head, hand, or foot can get stuck.
- If you can fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the side of the crib, the crib is unsafe.
- Make sure there are no broken or missing crib parts.
- Don’t use a crib with drop side rails.
- Remove bumpers, stuffed animals, blankets, pillows, and other accessories from the crib. A firm mattress and tight fitting crib sheet is all that’s needed.
- Sleep sacks (wearable blankets) are a safe alternative to blankets.
- Don’t place a crib, high chair, or playpen near windows, draperies, or blinds.
- Always lay a baby on his or her back for sleeping.
- Lower the mattress to prevent falls as the baby begins to push up.
- Learn infant CPR.
As children get older, talk to them about the dangers of suffocation and provide safe areas for play. Watch out for potential hazards and make the home safer by:
- Removing lids and locks from furniture or trunks to keep a child from climbing inside and becoming trapped.
- Remove doors from old refrigerators and freezers.
- Keep plastic sacks, such as grocery bags, produce bags, or dry cleaning wrap, out of reach of children.
- Lock the car trunk and keep the car keys hidden.
Choking: Many injuries occur when children are unable to breathe because food or other objects block their airways and cause choking. Most choking injuries occur with food, so cut your child’s meals and snacks into bite size pieces. Choking risks include small candies, nuts, hotdogs, grapes, carrots, and popcorn.
Also, make sure small household items such a coins, buttons, small batteries, jewelry, small balls, and pins are out the reach of children to avoid choking. Don’t select toys with small parts for children under three.
Electrical: Cover electrical outlets and protect children from electrical wires. Proper grounding, electrical safety devices, and avoiding hazardous situations can help prevent electric shock in children.
Childproof your home from electric shock by:
- Covering unused electrical sockets with plastic covers.
- Repairing or discarding any damaged appliances or electric cords.
- Keeping young children away from electric appliances.
- Teaching kids to respect electricity.
Windows, Stairways, and Doors: Block or lock stairways, windows, and doors to prevent accidental falls or small children wandering off. Discourage play near windows and patio doors which can lead to a fall through glass. Don’t store or display anything a child could climb near a window.
Other Safety Tips:
- Use a gun safe to keep guns locked away out of the reach of children.
- Use safety latches and locks for cabinets and drawers to help prevent poisonings and other injuries.
- Use anchors to prevent furniture, televisions, bookcases, ranges, and other furniture and appliances from tipping over and crushing children.
- Use corner and edge bumpers to help prevent injuries from falls against sharp edges on walls, furniture, and fireplaces.
- Use knob covers, which snap over door knobs, to prevent young children from turning them.
- Use cordless window coverings to avoid strangulation.