Your home may need lots of baby-proofing
Child-proofing your home can seem like a huge task, but considering some of the statistics on child injuries, even a little bit can go a long way. If your baby is not yet crawling you may be tempted to put off the task of baby-proofing. But, time passes quickly and before you know it your baby will be rolling, crawling, or walking their way into everything. Here is a short list of things to consider so you can be prepared when your child takes his or her first steps:Stoves, ovens and other appliancesWhen it comes to stoves, a toddler is just the right height to reach burners, pot handles and sometimes even knobs. Ovens and dishwashers can be opened and crawled into. Dishwashers often contain sharp objects such as knives or breakable glasses. Install locking latches on all appliances that open and close. Install knob covers to prevent a child from turning on burners and always keep pot handles turned inward while cooking.Cabinets and drawersCabinets and drawers contain a lot of hazards, including sharp objects, chemicals, medications, and items on which toddlers can choke. Install latches on the inside of drawers and cabinets when possible and use knob latches on doors. If you cant find a latch that fits that odd cabinet, consider removing all its contents and replacing them with toys. Many households keep poisons and other chemicals under the sink. Consider moving them to a higher cabinet thats out of babys reach and locked.Plants, vases and decorative glasswareMany plants are poisonous and can cause illness or death. Be aware of the type of plants in your home and keep poisonous plants well out of reach or just get rid of them. Potting materials may also be a choking hazard. Dont use rocks or marbles as a ground cover for plants, and put all vases and other dangerous breakables out of the reach of curious hands. Tables Coffee tables and other tables have sharp corners. Coffee tables are especially hazardous because as babies learn to walk, they use these tables to cruise. Put table cushions on the corners or even around the entire edge. Some companies make custom, machine washable covers designed to fit the tables, but consider at least making some type of cover to protect the corners. StairsMore than half of all non-fatal injuries to children are from falls and most of those involve stairs. In addition, baby walkers cause more injuries than any other nursery product. This has led the American Academy of Pediatrics to call for a ban of baby walkers. Install safety gates at the top and the bottom of all stairs. Make sure the gate has a secure latch and is not just a pressure type gate. Keep stairs free of clutter that could cause a fall, not just for the baby but for you as well. Building codes call for a minimum of four inches between balusters on the stairs and railings to prevent a child from poking their head through and getting stuck or falling through. FloorsDeep carpets can hide objects like coins that can cause choking. The corners of kitchen floors, especially under the cabinet edges, also can hide choking hazards like dried pasta, beans or pet food. Regularly check for items from the childs perspective on your hands and knees and Keep pet food out of reach of children. Purses and keysPurses contain an assortment of hazards, including medications, coins, paper clips, and sharp objects. Decorative key rings often have small parts that can come off and pose a choking hazard. Dont get in the habit of leaving your purse or keys by the door. Keep it out of reach of prying eyes. Doors and windowsDoors pose several hazards. They can lead to areas of the home (or outdoors) that are off limits to your child. They are also a pinching hazard. An often overlooked hazard is the doorstop. The end cap can come off and pose a choking hazard. Cover the knobs with safety covers to prevent a child from opening a door they shouldnt. Windows also are a big safety hazard. Install window guards that only allow the window to open a few inches and move all furniture that children can climb on away from windows.Another hazard comes not from windows but from the cords used on drapes and blinds. These pose a serious strangulation hazard. Purchase a cord winder for the blinds or tie them up out of reach of children.Bookcases and TV standsBookcases, TV carts, and other top heavy furniture can pose a risk if they are climbed on. Use straps or anchors to secure furniture to a wall or floor. Your child can become trapped or crushed under the weight of the furniture.Toilets and water heatersChildren can drown if they fall into a toilet. Use toilet lid locks or keep the door closed at all times. Take the baby out of the bathroom if you have to answer the phone or door. Scalds are the leading cause of accidental death in the home for children from birth to age 4 and accounts for 40 percent of the burn injuries for children up to age 14. At 130 degrees, it only takes 30 seconds for serious burns to occur, and at 140 degrees it only takes five seconds. Make sure your eater heaters thermostat is set at 120 degrees or lower.Electrical outlets and cordsElectrical cords pose two hazards. First, they are attached to heavy equipment or lamps, and babies can pull them down on themselves. Second, if a baby or toddler put a cord in their mouths and there is a crack in the wiring, the saliva becomes an excellent conductor. The burns can quite deep and extensive. Buy cord bundlers and secure cords to furniture to prevent children from pulling on them. FireplacesFireplaces can cause injuries due to the hard, sharp edges of the hearth, from burns, and also from materials inside that could cause choking, even when the fire isnt burning. Install a guard to keep children away from the fireplace and install a cushion around the sharp edges of the hearth. If possible stop using the fireplace altogether until a child is old enough to understand fire safety. Never leave a child unattended around a fireplace whether there is a guard or not.Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors Smoke detectors should be in every bedroom and on every level of a house. Batteries should be changed yearly. The rule of thumb is when the clocks are changed for daylight savings time, change your batteries. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless byproduct of combustion. It is commonly produced by any gas-fired appliance such as water heaters, gas stoves, ovens, gas dryers, and fireplaces. Levels even as low as 50 parts per million over a period of time can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Higher amounts can lead to more serious illness including death. Install a carbon monoxide detector that has a peak level indicator in case there is a spike in carbon monoxide levels that returns to normal. By checking the readings you can determine if an spike has taken place.
To sum it all up, you cant just child-proof your house one time and be done. Child-proofing your house is an ongoing task. A crawling baby has a much different view of the world than a walking toddler. Get down on your hands and knees and look at what they see from their level.And educate yourself and other caregivers. Take a CPR and a First Aid class and encourage anyone who will be watching your child to do the same, including grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Make sure baby-sitters are CPR-certified.Remember, the most crucial part of baby-proofing involves ongoing adult supervision. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep a close watch on your child at all times.Al Bosworth’s safety column appears regularly on http://www.vaildaily.com and in the Vail Daily.