Are you feeling confident that you've done a thorough job of childproofing your home? Well, chances are you've missed something. In a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), when first-time moms of kids ages 12 to 36 months were taken through a model home and asked to point out potential hazards, they could identify fewer than half of them.
You may also be over-reassured about your own child's understanding of her surroundings. In the same study, when researchers asked the moms to point out items that would be hazardous for their toddler, they made statements like, "My child isn't curious about the toilet" or "my child knows not to play with matches" and identified only 40 percent of the real risks.
The truth is that household injuries are one of the top reasons kids under 3 years old visit the E.R. each year. And it's wise to be prepared for possible harm, and you can do that by childproofing your home the best way you can.
Inside the home: The biggest risks
When your baby arrives, it means you need to look at your home in a whole new light. Babies and young children are indeed curious and you will need to assess your home for probable dangers. In the UK, more than one million children are taken to hospital after being involved in an accident inside their home every year. Those most at risk from a home accident are children under five years old.
For children aged under four, drowning and suffocation are the main causes of fatal accidents, while falls account for most non-fatal accidents. Fire also poses a significant risk to children under the age of 11. Don't wait until tragedy strikes before you think about safety. With cautious planning and a little equipment, you'll be prepared for when your baby is ready to explore the inside of your home.
How to help prevent falls
Falls account for 44 per cent of all children's accidents. Once your baby starts crawling, you will need to take extra precautions to keep your mobile baby safe.
Use safety gates to keep your baby out of rooms that are off limits. Also fit a gate at the top of the stairs, and another three steps from the bottom. Also, never leave things lying on the stairs that could cause someone to trip up. Stairs should always be well-lit and carefully maintained. Remove or repair any damaged or worn carpet.
Protecting little fingers
Be aware of things that pinch fingers, like hinges on ironing boards and deckchairs. You may want to consider buying hinge protectors. Keep pens, scissors, letter openers, staplers, paper clips, and other sharp instruments in locked drawers.
Avoid using socket protectors. Modern plug sockets have inbuilt safety systems to protect your baby's fingers. Using socket protectors can actually make these systems less effective, so it's safest to steer clear of them altogether.
Preventing your baby’s hands from finding dangers
Consider the potential hazard of anything you drop in the bin. If you're using the bin to discard batteries, paper clips, plastic bags, or other potentially dangerous items, place it out of your baby's reach.
Hide lamp and appliance cords behind heavy furniture or conceal them with a special flex-holder device. Tall lamps may topple over if your baby pulls on them, so anchor them safely behind furniture. Keep first-aid supplies in a locked cupboard, and make sure babysitters know where to find them and how to respond in an emergency. Store any poisonous substances safely where your children cannot reach them.
Young children burn themselves more often than older children and adults. Most scalds are caused by hot drinks being spilt. A hot drink can still scald a child 15 minutes after being made.
To prevent scalds from drinks, keep mugs of hot drinks away from the edge of surfaces. Also, never pass a hot drink to a breastfeeding mum, as even a tiny drop could scald both her and her baby. When cooking, make sure that the handles of pans and saucepans are turned away from the edge. A pan handle can look very tempting to a curious child.
Keeping your home fire-safe
Domestic fires pose a definite risk to children. Children playing with matches and lighters frequently start house fires.
To keep your family safe, fit smoke alarms that comply with regulation standards. Install smoke detectors in every bedroom and one near the kitchen. Check them weekly to be sure they're working, and change the batteries annually. Death from a house fire is more than four times as likely for homeowners who have not fitted a working smoke alarm. If you have a fireplace, keep a fire extinguisher nearby, and have it serviced or checked according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Protecting your child from suffocation
A safe sleeping place is an easy way to help prevent suffocation. Cots are the safest place for your baby to sleep. Place your baby with his feet touching the bottom of the cot, and use light blankets or a sleeping bag to cover him.
If you have a cat, put a cat net over your baby's cot. Cats love warm places to sleep, so this net will prevent your cat from sleeping on top of your baby.
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