Home can be a dangerous place for children ... put safety first

By Jane K. Frobose
Colorado State University Extension
Family and Consumer Education
Denver County, 2008

Each year, more children die in home accidents than from childhood diseases.

Most home accidents occur because of childhood curiosity and unsafe physical environments. Safeguard the home by reducing the risks of accidents. Consider the following suggestions.

Lock dangerous household items, cleaners, medicines, toxic bleaches, pesticides, oven and drain cleaners, paint solvents, polishes and waxes in a secure place out of children's sight and reach. Do not leave these items under a sink or in plain view in the garage. Purchase items packaged in child-resistant containers. Use safety latches and locks for cabinets and drawers in kitchens, bathrooms and other areas to help prevent poisonings and other injuries.

Keep the national Poison Control Centers number (800-222-1222) posted in a convenient, easy to access location in the home.

Keep all plastic wrapping materials such as produce, trash and dry cleaning bags away from children. Never use thin plastic material to cover mattresses or pillows. The plastic film can cling to a child's face and could cause suffocation.

Guard against electrical shocks. Disconnect electric appliances when not in use and do not use near filled bath sinks or tubs. Cover unused electric outlets with safety caps. Be certain children cannot easily remove them and the caps are large enough so that children cannot swallow and choke on them.

Any cord or string that hangs can strangle a child if it is long enough. Cut window-covering cords. Use safety tassels to prevent children from strangling in cord loops. Be sure that older vertical blinds and drapery cords have tension or tie-down devices to hold the cords tight. When purchasing new window coverings, request safety feature options.

Keep children away from open windows. Do not depend on screens to keep children from falling out of the window. Screens are designed to keep insects out, not children in. Avoid placing furniture near windows that children can use to climb. Use window guards and safety netting to help prevent falls from windows, balconies, decks and landings. Check safety devices frequently to make sure they are secure, properly installed and maintained. There should be no more than four inches between the bars of the window guard. Be sure at least one window in each room is easily accessible as an escape in case of fire.

Smoke detectors are essential safety devices for protection against fire deaths and injuries. Use smoke detectors on every level of the home and near bedrooms for fire alert. Check detectors once a month to make sure they are working. Change batteries at regular half-year intervals. Keep a charged fire extinguisher in a handy, easy to access spot in the home on each level of the home. Read directions and know how to use the extinguisher. Have the fire department check it once a year.

Toys can be dangerous too. Careful manufacturing and toy selection are not enough. Toys must be used, maintained, and stored correctly to ensure safety. Children under the age of three are very likely to put objects in their mouths. It is critical that toys intended for infants and toddlers have oversized pieces that meet U.S. safety specifications. Keep small objects out of the child's reach. If a toy, toy part or any object is small enough to fit inside a tube of toilet tissue, it is a potential danger to a child. Even such common items as coins, pins, buttons or small batteries can cause a child to choke.

Tiny toys and toys with small, removable parts can become lodged in a child's windpipe, ears or nose. Check to see that toys have not broken or come apart. Examine stuffed animals, dolls and cuddly toys for tears or rips. They may come apart at the seams exposing small pellets that could be swallowed or inhaled. Check for sturdy, well-sewn seams. Choose toys that have securely fasten eyes, noses, buttons, ribbons and other decorations.

When choosing toys, look for labels that give age recommendations such as "Recommended for Children Three to Five Years Old." Some toys or games that are safe for older children may contain small parts that are hazardous in a younger child's hands. Look for warnings and other safety messages on toy packaging. Always remove and immediately discard all packaging from a toy before giving it to a baby or small child.

Balloons require special attention whether they are inflated or not. Never allow a child to put his or her mouth on an inflated balloon. Un-inflated or broken balloons are choking hazards. Discard broken pieces immediately. More children have suffocated on un-inflated balloons and broken balloon pieces than any other type of toy, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

If a toy chest, box or storage container has a free-falling lid, remove the lid. Lids can drop on a child's neck and possibly cause death or a serious injury. Look for a container that has support to hold the lid open at any position or choose one with sliding panels or a lightweight, removable lid to prevent pinched fingers. Check for smooth, finished edges and proper air holes.

A study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission of hospital emergency rooms suggests that the most frequent causes of toy related injuries involve falling, tripping or being hit with toys. "Toy-caused" accidents happen for many reasons but generally are not due to product flaws. Parents and others responsible for a child's care must be the safety experts. For more information on Safety and Childproofing your home, access the website at www.cpsc.gov.

Revise 1-08. Jane K Frobose
Review: A. Bruce, CSU Extension Specialist, Child Development/Parenting Specialist

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Updated Tuesday, August 05, 2014