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As a parent, you do everything you can to provide your children with a healthy, loving environment they can thrive in. And while we think of home as a safe, comfortable space, it’s often the most common place for unintentional injury to occur. Any seasoned parent will tell you it takes mere seconds for an accident to happen — Especially when it comes to babies and toddlers. Thankfully, there are several small steps you can take to prevent common household hazards and make your home safe for even the youngest family members.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the top safety hazards parents should be aware of at home.
Fall injuries are among the most common accidents to occur at home, with many occurring on either stairs, balconies, or windows. Prevent falls throughout your home by installing baby gates to the top and bottom of every staircase. Inspect the stair’s handrails and banisters for safety risks and look for potential hazards like loose nails or screws. Consider installing banister guards to ensure little bodies can’t squeeze between spindles or rails. To prevent window falls, make sure windows lock when closed and install window guards for added fall prevention.
Environmental health hazards are sometimes the most dangerous hazards found at home because they’re the hidden, unseen dangers we often forget about. Pollutants like carbon monoxide, lead, and asbestos all affect a home’s air quality and should be dealt with promptly. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that’s lethal when inhaled and most often comes from wood or coal burning stoves, fireplaces, tobacco products, and more. Prevent exposure at home by installing carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home and keeping rooms well ventilated.
Lead and asbestos are other dangers to watch out for. Lead is a metal found all over the home in paint, air, water, and other materials and known to cause harmful effects on children who become exposed. Typically, exposure happens from lead-based paint, home renovations, toys, and other household products. If your home was built before 1978, it’s a good idea to get a lead paint inspection to reduce the risk of exposure. Similarly, asbestos, a fibered material can cause long lasting health risks when the dust becomes airborne and inhaled. Asbestos exposure can occur from older, heirloom toys, art supplies, cosmetics, building materials, and even household appliances. To prevent your child from potentially developing future asbestos-related diseases, reach out to your state’s local health department for the preferred certified asbestos inspector or lab testing service.
At home, there are several choking risks parents need to be mindful of. Everyday items like jewelry, coins, buttons, batteries, or magnets are common causes of choking-related injuries. Food is also a significant choking hazard and is very dependent on a child’s age and food stage because different foods have different risks. For food safety, a good rule of thumb is to feed children food that is age appropriate. Once children are eating solid table food, prevent choking by cutting up large, chunky food into small enough pieces that’s easy for consumption. Small and/or hard candies, nuts, or popcorn should never be given to children under the age of five. Children should always be fed in an upright position and sitting either at a table or in a highchair. To be extra safe, every parent should take the time to learn the correct methods for helping a choking child.
Having good fire safety is always important. Keep children safe from immediate fire hazards by storing fire-related items like matches and lighters up and away from children’s reach. Prevent fire and burn risks by keeping children a physical distance away from cooking stoves, fireplaces, and other heat sources by using a hearth or baby gate. Oven locks are also helpful ways to keep burns at bay. To safeguard against electrical hazards, cover outlets with plug protectors and keep wires, cords, and plugs out of children’s reach. Alert yourself of potential fire by installing a smoke alarm in every room and outside every bedroom. Lowering your home’s hot water heater thermostat to below 120 degrees Fahrenheit is an easy way to prevent burns and hot water scalds.
There are several ways to maintain good water safety practices at home to prevent the risk of drowning. Even if you don’t own a pool or spa, there are still several potential drowning hazards to be aware of. Infants and toddlers are especially at risk of accidental drowning. Even a small amount of standing water can become a potential hazard. So, it’s important to never leave young children unattended in the bath. Prevent bathtub falls by adding stick-on decals or a slip-proof mat to the floor of the tub. When a child is mobile, the toilet bowl becomes a drowning hazard. If you have a curious tot, consider installing a childproof toilet lock to keep children away from water. If your home has amenities like a pool, or even a pond, baby-proof your backyard by installing fencing and gates to prevent unsupervised water access.
Household chemicals, pesticides, and cleaners can be found in almost every household. Prevent common poison risks by keeping items out of reach of children. When storing household chemicals or cleaners, keep them in their original packaging and ensure that everything is clearly marked or labeled. Anywhere you keep chemicals — whether in the laundry room, closets, or under the sink — be sure they are baby proofed and locked away out of reach. Avoid mixing chemicals and cleaners together, unless directed to do so, as it can cause toxic fumes and create more harmful, poisonous chemicals. Accidental drug overdose can become a hazard once children start exploring their environment, so keep medications stored away from children in a safe, locked area of the home. Plants are also a potential source of poisoning that many parents forget about. When keeping indoor and outdoor plants around children, make sure the plant is child-friendly and not poisonous. If you ever suspect your child has been poisoned, contact Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.
The most important thing to remember when evaluating your home’s hazard and safety risks is there are several ways to prevent common injuries from occurring—and the ones already mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg. With a bit of research and some proactive planning, parents can safely and effectively prevent common household hazards.