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Childproofing Your Home in 6 Steps

Help prevent household-related injuries with these childproofing must-do’s

Help prevent household-related injuries with these childproofing must-do’s

Kids see and interact with the world differently than adults. To them, cabinets are the perfect hiding spot, couch cushions are the ideal foundation for an epic fort, and coffee tables are lifesavers when you come across a “lava” floor. While we love kids for their big imagination and natural curiosity, such traits also can lead them into potentially dangerous situations, especially while in the comfort of their own homes.

“Research shows that children are more likely to be injured at home than anywhere else,” says nurse practitioner Caitlin Herman, CRNP, with LVPG Pediatrics and Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital. “That’s why it’s so important for parents, guardians or anyone with a child in their life to save Poison Control's phone number, take a CPR class, read up on first aid tips and childproof their home.”

Follow these steps to a safer home.

1. Go under cover

Cover potentially dangerous items or areas found throughout your home, including:

  • Outlets: Cover all unused electrical outlets with outlet covers or outlet plates to help prevent electrical shock and possible electrocution. Be sure outlet protectors cannot be easily removed by children and are large enough that children cannot choke on them
  • Sharp corners and edges: Use corner or edge bumpers on sharp corners, such as the corners of coffee tables and hearth edges.
  • Stairs: Install baby gates on the top and bottom of stairs. Look for safety gates that can be screwed into the wall and meet current safety standards.
  • Rooms and other areas with possible hazards: Use safety gates, doorknob covers and door locks to help prevent children from gaining access to places they shouldn’t. Be sure the doorknob cover is sturdy and allows a door to be opened quickly by an adult in case of an emergency.
  • Windows: Move furniture away from windows (which could provide climbing access to toddlers) and add childproof window guards and safety netting to windows. Windows shouldn't open more than four inches.
  • Doors: Apply pinch guards to all doors to prevent finger crush injuries.

2. Anchor topple risks

“Children can pull furniture down on themselves, which we’ve seen cause serious injuries and even fatalities,” Herman says.

Look at your furniture to determine if any pieces should be secured to the wall or floor. Furniture should be stable on its own. For added security, anchor chests or dressers, televisions, television stands, bookcases and entertainment units to the floor or attach to a wall with safety straps or L-brackets. You should also:

  • Mount flat-screen TVs on the wall and keep top-heavy furniture like bookshelves secured to the wall with screws.
  • Install drawer stops on chests of drawers and place heavy items close to the floor on shelves.
  • Place televisions on a sturdy, low-rise base. Avoid flimsy shelves.
  • Push the television toward the back of its stand as far as possible.
  • Keep remote controls and other attractive items off the television stand so children won’t be tempted to grab for them and risk knocking over the television.
  • Make sure free-standing ranges and stoves are installed with anti-tip brackets.

If you’re in the market for new furniture, Herman says to “look for items that come with anti-tip kits, have higher safety standards, rounder corners, wide legs or solid bases, and fewer chemicals used in production.”

3. Make sure dangerous things are out of reach

“View your home through your child’s eyes while asking yourself what can they reach that they shouldn’t be able to?” Herman says.

Place dangerous items in locked or childproof cabinets with safety latches and locks to help prevent poisonings and other injuries. Pay special attention to:

  • Small objects that could be choking hazards, such as small toys.
  • Dangerous chemicals and cleaning supplies.
  • Medications, vitamins and supplements.
  • Straps, drawstrings for blinds and other strangulation hazards.
  • Plastic bags, matches, candles and lighters.
  • Batteries, especially button batteries, which can lead to serious injury or death if placed in the nose/ears or ingested.
  • Guns and other firearms – make sure to lock them away.
  • Brightly colored detergent pods, which kids might mistake for candy. Single-use dishwashing and laundry and detergent packets are very concentrated and can be toxic.
  • House plants (which thankfully do not taste good) because some may be extremely poisonous if ingested in larger quantities.

4. Check your alarms

Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms to alert you of potential dangers. Make sure to:

  • Use smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside each bedroom and outside sleeping areas.
  • Check them once a month, replace batteries yearly or consider using 10-year batteries.
  • Install CO alarms near sleeping areas and change batteries at least once a year.

5. Prevent H2(O)h no’s

Be extra cautious where water is involved.

  • Never leave your child unattended in a bathtub, swimming pool or spa.
  • Use layers of protection, including a barrier completely surrounding a pool or spa.
  • Install anti-scald devices for faucets and showerheads to help prevent burns from hot water.
  • Lower the temperature of your water heater to 120 F or lower to prevent burns.

6. Double-check your kitchen

Your kitchen is one of the most dangerous areas of your home for young children. Not only do you have to worry about your child getting burned, but they can also get into things they shouldn’t, like cinnamon.

“Spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg, can cause asphyxiation, and suffocation is the leading injury-related death for children younger than 1,” Herman says.

In addition to not leaving spices on the counter, take the following precautions:

  • If your stove has knobs that are in a child's reach, add stove knob covers that will prevent them from turning the stove on and prevent potential burns.
  • Install a lock for the oven door to prevent your child from accidentally opening a hot oven, crawling into the oven or having the oven door open on them.
  • Use back burners of the stove for cooking and turn pot handles toward the back of the stove so your child can’t reach up and grab them.
  • When you're done using a kitchen appliance, store it in a place your child can't reach and keep the cord wrapped up.
  • Do not allow electrical cords to dangle where your child can reach and tug on them, possibly pulling a heavy appliance down on themselves.
  • Never transfer dangerous substances into containers that look as if they might hold food as this may tempt a child to taste it.
  • Keep knives, forks, scissors and other sharp instruments separate from “safe” kitchen utensils, and in a latched drawer.
  • Do not use small refrigerator magnets that your baby could choke on or swallow. If you suspect your child has swallowed a magnet, seek medical attention right away.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen and if your home has more than one story, mount a fire-extinguisher on each floor.

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