Protecting your child from household dangers is your job - and it's a job that will always be evolving to keep up with your child's growing mobility and curiosity. Even before your baby comes home from the hospital, you will need to think carefully about his safety at home. And as he grows older, your job becomes more difficult as he touches, tastes, and climbs his way through the world.
This safety checklist will help you identify and eliminate potential hazards in your home related to choking, drowning, electric shock, falls, poisonings, strangulation and suffocation.
General Household Accident Prevention Tips for Indoors and Outdoors
Putting things in their mouths is one of the ways that babies and small children explore the world. Anything that fits can be a danger. Choking is usually caused by food, toys, and other small objects that can easily lodge in a child's small airway. Pay special attention to the following to prevent your child from choking:
- Don't give a child under age 4 any hard, smooth foods that can partially or completely block the windpipe. These include nuts of any type, sunflower seeds, watermelon with seeds, grapes, cherries with pits, raw carrots, raw peas, raw celery, popcorn, and hard candy.
- Some soft foods can also cause choking because they are the right shape for blocking a child's windpipe. These foods, including hot dogs, sausages, grapes, and caramels, can be served if they are chopped into small pieces. Spoonfuls of peanut butter and chewing gum should also be regarded as potential choking hazards.
- When babies begin eating solids, beware of foods like raw apples and pears, which may be difficult to chew without teeth (or with just a few teeth).
- Encourage children to sit when eating and to chew thoroughly. Teach them to chew and swallow their food before talking or laughing.
- Never let children run, play sports, or ride in the car with gum, candy, or lollipops in their mouths.
- Be especially vigilant during adult parties, when nuts and other foods might be easily accessible to small hands. Clean up early and carefully, and check the floor for dropped foods that can cause choking.
- Always follow all manufacturers' age recommendations when buying toys. Some toys have small parts that can cause choking, so heed all warnings on a toy's packaging.
- Never buy vending-machine toys for small children; these toys do not have to meet safety regulations and often contain small parts.
- Check toys frequently for loose or broken parts - for example, a stuffed animal's loose eye or a broken plastic hinge.
- Warn older children not to leave loose game parts or toys with small pieces in easy reach of younger siblings.
Balloons and Other Small Objects
- Never give balloons to a child younger than age eight. A child who is blowing up or chewing on a balloon can choke by inhaling it. Inflated balloons pose a risk because they can pop without warning and be inhaled.
- Safely dispose of button-cell batteries.
- Encourage children not to put pencils, crayons, or erasers in their mouths when coloring or drawing.
- Don't reward small children with coins.
Drowning Prevention and Pool Safety Suggestions
Infants and small children can drown in only a few inches of water. Protect them from danger by providing constant supervision whenever they are near water.
The potential for children drowning in backyard and condominium pools can be reduced or eliminated if property owners and residents follow simple guidelines. Pool safety requires a secure pool area as well as supervision of children using the pool.
Securing Your Pool
Several types of barriers separating a pool from its surroundings contribute to pool safety, and are ideally used in combination since no single type is entirely effective.
- A fence installed in or just outside the pool deck around the perimeter of the pool and spa is the most effective.
- Fence gates should open out, away from the pool, be self-closing and self-latching. The latch at the top should be inaccessible to small children from outside the fence.
- Keep all doors, sliding doors and accessible windows closed and locked.
- A fence or wall separating the pool yard from the street discourages uninvited guests.
- Other physical safety features are pool alarms/motion detectors, safety covers, and alarms on doors and windows.
- Have approved flotation/lifesaving items near the pool for use in an emergency. Inflatable pool toys are not lifesaving devices!
- Have a telephone with a clearly posted “911” emergency number by the pool area.
- Supervision of children using a pool is essential even if the pool is secured with multiple safety features.
- If groups of children are using a pool during a party, for example, two adults should be designated as pool watchers. One should actively supervise the area, and the second should maintain eye contact with the children.
- Never leave a child alone near a pool, spa, bathtub, toilet, water-filled object, standing water, lake or pond where water could cover his or her nose and mouth.
- If a child cannot be located, look immediately in the pool/spa area.
- Do not allow children to use a pool/spa area as a playground. Discourage running and horseplay in the area.
- Adults (parents and child-care providers) and children should learn and practice CPR. Sign up today for a class taught by Village Fire Rescue personnel.
- Offer swimming lessons to children and adults.
Electric Shock and Fall Prevention
Electric Shock Prevention
Many household outlets and cords are right at a toddler's eye level. Protect your child from electric shock by following these safety rules:
- Cover all unused outlets with safety caps.
- Unplug all kitchen appliances when not in use, and keep cords far from reach.
- Unplug all bathroom appliances (hair dryers, curling irons, electric razors) when not in use.
- Position television and stereo equipment against walls, so small hands don't have access to the back surfaces or cords.
- To prevent injury from chewing on cords from lamps or other electrical equipment, bind excess cord with a twist-tie. You can also purchase a holder or spool specially designed to hide extra cord.
- Make sure all wires in the house are properly insulated.
- Check electronic toys frequently for signs of wear and tear; any object that sparks, feels hot, or smells unusual must be repaired or discarded immediately.
- Seasonal lighting, such as Christmas tree lights, can pose an especially inviting hazard. Make sure all wires are properly insulated, bind excess cord, and unplug all lights when they are not in use.
Babies and infants can be wiggly and roll around easily; toddlers and small children can climb their way into trouble. Protect your children from falls by paying special attention to windows, cribs and beds, different areas of the house, and outdoor playgrounds.
Baby walkers pose a special risk:
- Babies in walkers can fall over objects, can roll into hot stoves, pools, and heaters; most dangerously, they can roll down stairs where a baby is at risk of head injury at the bottom.
- Walkers may give a baby the momentum needed to break through a gate (sometimes with stairs on the other side), something that results in head injuries to thousands of babies each year.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages their use.
Accidental poisoning can occur when a child ingests medications, cleaning products, alcohol, cosmetics, or other toxins. Many well-meaning adults fail to recognize how toxic certain substances can be and leave them in accessible places. Protect your child from the dangers of poisoning by following these rules:
- Store all medications - prescription and nonprescription - in a locked cabinet, away from children's reach.
- Never leave vitamin bottles, aspirin bottles, or other medications on the kitchen table, countertops, bedside tables, or dresser tops. Small children may decide to emulate adults and help themselves.
- Never tell a child that medicine is "candy."
- Take special precautions when you have houseguests. Be sure their medications are far from reach, preferably locked in one of their bags.
- Don't keep aspirin or other medicines in a pocketbook; children may find them when searching for gum or a toy.
- Child-resistant packaging does not mean childproof packaging. Don't rely on packaging to protect your children.
- Always keep pills and liquids in their original containers.
- Never administer medication to a child in the dark: you may give the wrong dosage or even the wrong medication.
- After taking or administering medication, be sure to reattach the the safety cap, and store the medication away safely.
- Store household cleaning products and aerosol sprays in a high cabinet far from reach.
- Don't keep any cleaning supplies under the sink, including dishwasher detergent and dishwashing liquids.
- Never put cleaning products in old soda bottles or containers that were once used for food.
- When you are cleaning or using household chemicals, never leave the bottles unattended if there is a small child present.
- Never put roach powders or rat poison on the floors of your home.
- Keep hazardous automotive and gardening products in a securely locked area in your garage.
Strangulation and Suffocation Prevention
Babies and children have been strangled by strings on clothing, cords, and infant furniture and accessories. Prevent strangulation by avoiding these sources and modifying certain items in your home, especially any item with drawstrings, ribbons, and cords:
- Don't buy garments with drawstrings, which can catch on objects and strangle a child. Cut all drawstrings out of hoods, jackets, and waistbands in your child's wardrobe. Cut strings off mittens.
- Clip strings or ribbons off hanging mobiles and other crib toys.
- Strings on crib bumpers should be no longer than 6 inches.
- Always tie up window blind cords so they are out of your child's reach. Cut the cords so there is no loop at the bottom, then secure them with clothespins or specially designed cord clips.
- Don't let long telephone cords dangle to the floor.
- Resist the temptation to put necklaces or headbands on your baby.
- Never tie a pacifier around your baby's neck.
- Don't tether a pacifier to your baby's clothing with a ribbon or piece of string.
- Don't hang diaper bags or purses on cribs - a baby can become entangled in the straps or strings.
Because babies are not yet able to raise their heads, they need special protection from suffocation. Small children are also at risk, primarily due to plastic bags of all sizes. Protect your children from the dangers of suffocation by following these rules:
- Never place an infant face down on soft bedding, such as a waterbed, quilt, sheepskin rug, or mattress cover. The same holds true for any type of soft pillow, such as a beanbag or bead-filled pillow. Avoid large stuffed animals.
- Be sure that a crib mattress fits snugly in the crib. This keeps a baby from slipping in between the mattress and the crib sides.
- Never put an infant down on a mattress covered with plastic or a plastic bag.
- Promptly dispose of plastic shopping bags and plastic dry-cleaning bags. Tie several knots in each bag before throwing it out.
- Keep plastic garbage bags and large sandwich-style plastic bags out of children's reach.
- When cleaning up after a birthday party or holiday, pay special attention to all plastic bags from toy packaging. Collect them and throw them out immediately.
To reduce the chances of burn injury:
- Block access to the stove as much as possible.
- Never drink hot beverages or soup with a child sitting on your lap.
- Avoid using tablecloths or large place mats. A small child can pull on them and overturn a hot drink or plate of food.
- Never warm baby bottles full of milk in the microwave oven. The liquid may heat unevenly, resulting in pockets of milk that can scald your baby's mouth.
- Fireplaces and wood stoves must be screened. Radiators and electric baseboard heaters may need to be screened as well.
- Set the thermostat on your hot water heater to 120 degrees F or lower. A child can be scalded in 30 seconds if the temperature is only 5 degrees higher. If you are unable to control the water temperature (for example, you live in an apartment), install an anti-scald device in your bathtub faucets. This will slow water from tub spouts to a trickle if it reaches a certain temperature.