Making a Home Safer for Kids
Child safety starts with awareness of home hazards.
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Normally I would call myself a safety-conscious type of guy. I look both ways before crossing a street. I wear my seat belt. I throw out mayonnaise that has been in the fridge for more than two years.
But recently I was given the ultimate test for my home — taking care of a friend's 3-year-old. Granted, it was only for a couple of hours, and I've taken care of the child plenty of times at my friend's house.
But my home?
You would have thought I lived in a World War II battlefield, with all sorts of booby traps and land mines. So, the first call I made was to my trusty friend and co-host, Shari Hiller. She and her husband had managed to raise their children in a safe environment; she would have the skinny on how I could survive a couple of hours.
She scared the dickens out of me. Shari reminded me that over 2 million children are injured or killed by hazards in the home every year. I couldn't believe my ears. I was a child of the '60s — a child-safety net meant our parents rolled down the car windows when they decided to smoke. My brothers and I always thought our part of Ohio was naturally foggy.
Anyway, you get the point. There's a lot to this child-safety business.
Here is a list of things that can be done around your home. Many accidents can be prevented by using simple child-safety devices. But remember: No device is completely childproof.
- Smoke detectors are probably the most important home-safety items. A properly installed smoke alarm can double your chances for survival in a fire; the more warning time you have, the safer your child. Just remember to change your batteries twice a year — say, at the same time you change your clocks to go on, and off, daylight-savings time. Carbon-monoxide detectors should be part of this system. If you have questions about these items or cannot find them, call the fire department. It will help you out. Install these today! Please.
- Safety latches and locks. Use these on cabinets and drawers. These devices help prevent children from getting into medicines and household cleaners, as well as sharp kitchen utensils. They are easy to install, and take hardly any time. While you're at it, throw away any old prescriptions and household cleaners not in use. The less stuff of interest to the child, the better.
- Safety gates can help keep children away from stairs or rooms that have hazards; just make sure to follow the manufacturer's directions when installing. Don't guess; read the instructions. That's for all you guys out there, me being among those who think we can figure out anything without directions. Wrong!
- Doorknob covers and door locks. Use these to keep children away from places with hazards, including swimming pools. There are so many locks to choose from; pick one that you can operate easily.
- Corner and edge bumpers. Why does everything with a sharp edge seem to be the same height as a 3-year-old's little noggin? I suggest you wrap all your furniture with a mattress, but if that seems too much, there are a ton of items to be placed on corners and edges to help prevent injuries from falls or to soften falls against sharp or rough objects. Don't forget the fireplace.
- Window guards and safety netting. Install on balconies and decks to help prevent serious falls. Just make sure that you don't count on these too much; we still need to watch the little guys. They can really move.
- Anti-scald devices. Regulating faucets and showerheads can help prevent burns. Check your water heater to make sure that it isn't set over 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Outlet covers and outlet plates. A non-issue: Purchase these and use them. Place over unused outlets to keep kids from placing objects into the outlet. Electrical shock and possible electrocution can occur. This is a no-brainer!
These are just a few of the items that you should be aware of. If you're a parent, I'm sure that you are aware of the dangers your child faces daily even in the safety of your own home. But perhaps you have overlooked something.
Believe me: In my own home I had to do a major checklist. If you need more help, visit your local home-center store or children's furniture store. We are all in this together. Child safety is everyone's concern.
Oh, by the way, what did I do with the little guy I watched? Took him to Shari's house; she has cookies.
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