Parents want to provide their children with the best home environment possible. Typically this means giving them a home that is full of love and laughter. It also means creating a safe environment for their children. When it comes to safety, people will not only want to ensure that it is secure from outside threats, but that it is also safe when it comes to the hazards that are found inside of the home. Understanding these threats can help parents create the ideal environments for their children to be healthy and grow.
Batteries are typically not the first thing that parents think of when it comes to items that their children might swallow, however, they pose a very real danger. This is particularly true when it comes to the small "button" lithium batteries that are commonly found in watches, thermometers, certain toys, and numerous other household items. According to the National Capital Poison Center, there are approximately 3,500 cases of reported button battery ingestion annually in the United States. Ingestion of these batteries is most common in children who are younger than four years old. When a child swallows a battery, it can cause injury within hours of ingestion. The battery may burn the child's throat or cause burning or corrosion of the esophagus. Often, emergency surgery is needed to remove the battery. For this reason, emergency medical care should be sought the moment that a guardian or parent suspects that a battery has been swallowed. Symptoms to look for include vomiting, drooling, difficulty breathing and/or wheezing, discomfort in the chest, coughing, refusal to eat or difficulty eating, and difficulty swallowing.
To prevent this kind of accident from happening, parents will need to take certain precautions. When buying battery-operated products, look for items where the batteries are secured behind a child-proof lock. Parents should always check that items with batteries are closed completely and locked. In addition, supervision of children playing with toys operated by these batteries can also help prevent them from being ingested. Spent batteries also pose a danger to children and should be disposed of in a location where children gain access to them. In general all batteries should be stored away from young children and should never be left out or lying around.
Carbon monoxide is a killer that can fill a home with poisonous gas without an odor or color to indicate to its presence. It is produced when fuel sources such as wood, coal, kerosene, natural gas, gasoline, and charcoal are burned. In the home certain types of space heaters known as unvented space heaters that run on kerosene or natural gas can be a source of carbon monoxide. Gas appliances, gas logs, fires and faulty chimneys, auto exhaust and even tobacco smoke are sources of carbon monoxide. Because of the silent nature of this poisonous gas, people should be aware of the signs of exposure. Children may complain of dizziness, headaches, or blurred vision. A child may become clumsy and weak, have a rapid heartbeat or shortness of breath. Blurred vision, confusion, and difficulty hearing are also signs of carbon monoxide exposure. If a person feels that they and their child are being exposed to carbon monoxide, they should leave the home immediately for fresh air. After evacuating the house, emergency services should be contacted.
Installing a carbon monoxide detector can help alert families to dangerous levels of the gas. It is recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission that every home have a carbon monoxide detector installed. Annual inspection and cleaning of the fireplace can help prevent carbon monoxide levels from rising. Unventilated space heaters should not be used indoors, and cars should never be warmed up while inside of attached garages or near open doors that lead into the home
The home is filled with items that can cause a child to choke. Food is the obvious risk, and according to HealthyChildren.org, it represents more than fifty percent of choking incidents. In addition to food, small items around the house such as marbles, buttons, coins, and nearly anything that can fit into a child's mouth can be swallowed. Plastic bags are also a common choking hazard and should be kept in a location that children cannot reach. Children should be fed according to their age. For example, food items such as raw carrots, grapes, and nuts should not be given to babies or children who are younger than four years old. When children are older than four years of age, they should be advised to chew carefully and should never be allowed to play, run, or lie down while eating. Items that are small enough to fit into a child's mouth should be stored away from the child. If older siblings are playing with their toys they should be supervised and told never to give their younger siblings their toys. When buying toys for children, pay close attention to the age recommendations and any warnings. Learning CPR is critical in homes where there are small children.
Drowning is another threat to children that happens quickly and can be surprisingly quiet. Outdoor pools pose a threat that receives a great deal of attention. Parents with pools in their backyard should install a four to five foot fence around all four sides of the pool to prevent children from accidentally falling into the water. The door to the fence should be self-closing and latching. Placing alarms on windows or doors that lead directly to the pool will alert parents and guardians that a child is potentially going outside to the pool area. Another protection option is to put a cover over the surface of the pool when it is not in use. The cover should be made specifically for this purpose and have the ability to support the weight of children who might fall on top of it.
Pools aren't the only bodies of water that pose the threat of an accidental drowning. Unsupervised babies, toddlers, and young children can potentially drown in the bathtub, the toilet, or in water kept in a bucket or ice chest. To prevent these types of accidents from happening, children in bathtubs should never be left alone, nor should children be allowed to play in the bathroom. A child may easily drop a toy into the toilet, reach in and fall into the bowl. The small amount of water in a toilet is enough for a child to drown. Buckets and ice chests should be emptied of water and never kept where a child has access to them. As with choking, parents should learn CPR in the event that a child falls into a body of water. Children should be taught to swim from an early age; however, even children who know how to swim require constant supervision when in the pool.
Like drowning and choking, most falls are preventable. There are a number of ways in which children can fall. The most common types of falls involve children falling from their beds, sofas, or down a flight of stairs. Open windows also pose a danger for children.
The key to preventing most falls is supervision. Additionally other precautions can be taken to prevent kids from falling. Rules should be put in place to prevent kids from jumping up and down on sofas and beds. When seated in high chairs, children should be strapped in. To keep children from going down or up stairs, place a security gate of at the top or at the foot of them. To prevent children from falling from a window, keep them locked when not in use and open them no more than four inches. To prevent children from opening them further, use a window stop.
According to FEMA, fifty-two percent of deaths associated with fire are children who are younger than five years old. When children start these fires, it is typically the result of their natural curiosity. They may take matches or lighters, then hide and play with them. Even if a parent does not suspect their child is playing with fire, he or she should keep matches and lighters in a secure location. A locked drawer or cabinet is an example of where to put them. Lit items, such as candles, should be placed in a location where kids cannot reach them and potentially start a fire. Parents will want to teach their children to respect fire and explain the physical damage that fire can cause to them and to their surroundings. Parents will also want to prepare for a potential fire by creating a fire escape plan. The plan will provide members of a family with instructions on what to do in the event of a fire. Such a plan should include tips on exiting the home safely and where to meet outside of the home. To prevent accidental burns, parents will want to adjust the temperature on the home's water heater so that it is no more than 120 degrees. Toddlers and infants should also be kept away from hot foods and hot liquids. Children should not be allowed near indoor heaters or fireplaces. When grilling, children should not be allowed near outdoor grills. In addition, parents should know what to do in the event of a burn.
The home is filled with items that are poisonous to children. One of the most common causes of child poisoning comes from medications. If left within reach, children may attempt to open medication bottles and consume the contents inside. Often, younger children may mistake medication for candy and will not realize the danger of swallowing pills. For this reason, parents must be very careful not to call medication candy when attempting to give reluctant children their prescribed medicine. This type of misrepresentation can cause children to view all medications as candy. Because some children like to mimic adults, parents should avoid taking their medications in front of young children.
Cleaning products and other chemicals in the home are typically poisonous if swallowed. All products of concern should be kept in cabinets that are beyond the reach of any children in the house, or they should be kept within cabinets that are secured with durable child-proof locks. Medications should be kept in their original child-proof bottles so that children cannot easily open them if they do manage to get a hold of them.
When using poisonous cleaners, keep them within eyeshot at all times as children can ingest the contents quickly. Proper disposal of medications is also important as older kids may attempt to salvage medications for recreational use. Unused and expired medications should be mixed with cat litter or some type of substance that kids will find undesirable. The mixture should then be thrown away in a sealed plastic bag. If parents believe that their child has swallowed medication or some other form of poison, they should contact the Poison Control Center using its 800 number. This number should be kept near the telephone for emergency purposes, or kept on the refrigerator for easy locating.
Newborns up to one-year olds are at the greatest risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep related causes of death. Parents can prevent this from happening by following certain guidelines when putting babies to sleep. Babies should never sleep in their parent's bed. When a baby sleeps in the same bed as a parent, there is the risk that the adult will turn over onto the child. This can suffocate the child or cause severe injury. Instead, babies should sleep in a crib on a firm mattress. Pillows, crib bumpers, and blankets should be removed from the crib to reduce the danger of sleep-related death. The sheets on the crib's mattress should fit snug as opposed to loose-fitting.
Children and toys go hand in hand; however, sometimes toys can be dangerous for the children who are playing with them. Parents can take steps to ensure that the toys that their children are playing with are safe. One way to do that is to make smart decisions when purchasing toys for their children. Toys generally include labels that indicate what age group can safely play with them and whether they are choking hazards. Parents can use these labels as a guide when making purchases. In general, parents should avoid buying toys with small parts that could become lodged in the child's throat. A simple test is to attempt to pass a toy through a toilet paper tube. Items that can pass through the tube should not be given to a child that is three years old or younger. In addition, certain items, such as rounded toys or nail-shaped items should not be given to children within that age group, regardless of whether they can or cannot pass through the tube. Toddlers and infants should not be allowed to play with toys that have strings or straps that could become a choking hazard. Metal toys and toys made of glass are also not suitable for small children. When buying toys for children that are between three and five years old, parents should avoid toys that are made using brittle or thin plastic as these toys can break easily and injure the child. Toys containing magnets should also be avoided. Older children over the age of six will be interested in toys such as skateboards and bicycles. When buying these items, it is important to include safety accessories such as helmets. Buy electrical toys that produce heat when in use only for children who are eight years or older.
When selecting toys, parents should take care not to purchase toys that contain lead, which can damage the central nervous system. Toys containing lead are of particular concern when buying imported toys as other countries may not have the same strict manufacturing standards as the U.S. Lead may be found in some toys that are painted or made of soft plastic. Inspecting toys regularly will ensure that kids do not hurt themselves by playing with broken toys.
People keep firearms in the home for a number of reasons ranging from protection to hunting. In the hands of a child, however, a gun can turn into a family's greatest nightmare if the child unintentionally harms his or herself, a sibling or friend. When there is a firearm in the home, people must ensure the weapon is not accessible to children. Depending on the age of the child and his or her ability to understand, it is important that they learn how dangerous guns are and that they should not touch one. When a gun is in the house it should be unloaded with ammunition stored separately from the gun. It should be stored in a gun safe, a pistol box or a gun case that is always locked. Keys to the case should be kept in a hidden location that is too high for children to reach.