Childproof homes to keep kids safe
Approximately 2,096 children in the United States, ages 14 and under, die from accidental injuries in the home each year and three 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 four and under. Most fatal injuries at home are caused by fire, suffocation, drowning, choking, falls, poisoning or firearms discharged unintentionally.
Safe Kids Kansas 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 Sage, Safe Kids Kansas 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. Sage says, "Anything that can fit through a standard 1 1/2-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 Kansas 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 young 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. During warm weather months, pools are a drowning hazard. But even during the winter, a drained pool can be a hazard to young children.
--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. Keep toys rated for older children separate and out of reach from younger siblings.
--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, never use baby walkers and use protective surfaces beneath playground equipment.
--Avoid exposing children to potential poisons. Lock up potential poisons out of children's reach, including cleaning supplies, pet food, medicine, vitamins, beer, wine and liquor. Read labels and follow directions when giving medicine to children. Know which houseplants are poisonous and keep them where children can't reach them. The residue from ice melting products may be poisonous to children. Carefully clean or remove shoes before entering the house.
--Prevent tipovers. Kids can be seriously injured or killed as a result of climbing onto, falling against or pulling themselves up on shelves, bookcases, dressers, TV tables and other furniture. If a piece of furniture is unstable or top-heavy, fasten it to a wall using brackets, screws or wall straps. Keep heavier items on lower shelves or in lower drawers, and don't keep remote controls, candy or other tempting items on unstable stands or tables. A child might be enticed to reach for the top and pull down the object, the stand or both. Tie up loose cords, too--a child pulling on an electrical cord, or tripping on one, could pull an appliance off a stand.
--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.
--Ensure your baby has a safe sleep environment. Minimize your baby's risks of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by following the ABCs of Safe Sleep: Always place baby Alone, on his or her Back in a Crib. Leave blankets, stuffed animals, and other soft objects or bedding out of the crib. Do not use sleep positioning device. Make sure you discuss safe sleep practices with anyone who provides care for your child before the first day of care. For more information and a short video on safe sleep, visit www.safesleepkansas.org. Materials regarding safe sleep in child care can be found at www.safekidskansas.org, under "Programs," then "Child Care."
--Keep guns locked, unloaded and where kids can't reach them. 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 800-222-1222.
--Check your first aid kit to make sure it is fully stocked.
For more information call Safe Kids Kansas at 785-296-1223 or visit www.safekids.org.