Parents consider their home safe for their children, but evidence indicates that unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death in children 14 and younger; half of these injuries occur at home.
We can avoid, or at least minimize, such accidents by taking the following preventive steps and give children basic safety guidelines beginning in their preschool years.
• Teach your child the difference between indoor and outdoor toys.
For example, learning that your furniture is not playground equipment will not only help your furniture last longer, but your children are less likely to break any bones if they are not leaping from a chair to the sofa.
• Don’t allow children to play in the kitchen or bathroom. Both rooms are full of multiple dangers for children.
Top-heavy toddlers can drown in toilets and buckets of mop water. Lock away hazardous items such as knives, cleansers, matches, razors, shampoo and alcoholic beverages.
Keep trash cans locked in a closed cabinet or pantry because things that you throw away are potential dangers for your child.
• Install guards on windows that don’t interfere with your fire escape plan to prevent children from opening a window and falling out.
• Install gates with childproof latches at both the bottom and top of stairs. Lock doors that lead outside and install locks out of your child’s reach.
• Secure and stabilize bookshelves and televisions so that your child cannot pull them down and get pinned underneath.
• Teach older children which toys are potential choking hazards for their younger siblings.
• Supervise young children at all times when they are playing outside.
• Check your yard for poisonous plants or mushrooms and tell your child they should not eat these.
• If you have a yard, fence it in completely and keep your gate locked if children are playing there.
• Put gardening and yard tools in a secure place out of your child’s reach.
Also, keep children inside when an adult is using a power mower or weed whacker, and do not ride with your child on riding mowers because they can easily fall off and get run over.
• Don’t allow children near gas grills or barbeques even when not in use.
• Make sure that playground equipment installed in your yard is secured to the ground. Cut off the ends of bolts that stick out and close open S-hooks because clothing might get caught on them and cause serious injury.
• More than 70 percent of playground injuries are caused by falls. Make sure that the surface under playground equipment is soft.
It is recommended to have a 9- to 12-inch layer of mulch or sand under playground equipment. Children should only play on age-appropriate playgrounds. Teach your child how to properly play on outdoor equipment.
It only takes a little time to look for and remove potential dangers that might cause a lifetime of regret.
Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital, and Keith Bly is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the UTMB Pediatric Urgent Care Clinics. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.