Discussing home safety with parents has always been one of the most important aspects in pediatrics. Even the best behaved kids will find ways to get themselves into mischief from time to time. But now, with the pandemic continuing longer than anyone expected, our kids home with us every day, and our former routines gone—helping parents navigate home safety is more important than ever.
Parents are trying to navigate work-at-home with little or no daycare—and they are doing there best. But as they are juggling a lot more with less help, we have seen an increase in home accidents and injuries in both my practice and the hospital I work with.
Parents cannot be on top of their kids every second of the day to prevent every fall and potential injury, but by trying to keep the house as baby and toddler proofed as possible can prevent most potential injuries. To help you safeguard your home and feel prepared if there is an accident, here’s a rundown of the typical danger zones in the house and safety tips to help throughout COVID-19 (in addition to having your doctor’s phone number and poison control (1800-222-1222) on speed dial).
The kitchen is one of the most hazardous places in the house and much care is needed to protect your kids from getting hurt. Unfortunately the kitchen is by far the most used room in the house since all the cooking, the family meals, washing of dishes happens here.
- Safety locks: Store all hazardous liquids either on the higher cabinets or make sure your put safety locks in every cabinet
- Plugs: Unplug all the appliances while your young children are in the kitchen so they don’t pull the cords and cover all outlets with covers.
- Oven knob covers: Keep covers over the oven knobs and make sure when you’re cooking the pot lids are out of reach and the pot handles are turned in to prevent burns. If you’re buying a new oven, make sure it’s well insulated, as most new ovens will be, in order to prevent burns from touching the oven door while the stove is on
- Knives: Make sure all sharp objects such as knives and scissors are stored away in their drawers and the drawers are also locked.
- Magnets: Never keep magnets on the refrigerator door as they can be ingested by young kids and potentially choke. Ingestion of more than 1 magnet is a medical emergency since they can find their way into different parts of the intestines and stick together causing holes/perforations in the intestines.
- Tablecloths: Avoid using tablecloths for the table since many toddlers will try to reach and pull it, potentially having things from the table fall on their heads.
- Plastic shopping bags: Never leave plastic bags from grocery shopping out since kids could pull them over their head.
Living Room Safety
The living room/family room is another very frequently used room in the house and similar precautions must be considered. Usually that’s where most kids will play while the parents are in the house and many injuries can be prevented with some adjustments.
- Cords: Any cords, such as venetian blinds cords, should be out of reach and any cables or outlets should be stored away and covered.
- Sharp edges: Furniture with sharp edges should be covered with foam padding and any furniture such as tables, bookcases or TVs should be bolted to the wall so the child won’t pull or if attempts to climb on any of the furniture, they won’t fall on them.
- Batteries: TV remote controls should be out of reach and if they’re not keep the batteries out of them since a young child can potentially take them out and ingest them.
- Floors: Floors would be recommended to be carpeted in case of falls but if not carpeted make sure for your toddlers to not walk barefoot and have socks with grips on them.
- Organize small things (put up high): Small objects or toys should also be put away as they can be ingested and cause to choke.
- Bar carts: If you have alcoholic beverages in the living room, make sure they are stored away and locked to prevent ingestion.
Your child might not spend a lot of time in the bathroom, but it can be a very dangerous room if not prepared.
- Cleaning Supplies/Liquids: Make sure there’s no laundry detergents or any caustic liquids on the floor inside the sink cabinet or at least make sure the cabinet door is locked.
- Bathtub: Do not leave your child in the bathtub by themselves, even for a second, as they can drown even in less than an inch depth of water. Make sure there’s grips on the bottom of the tub just to prevent slips and falls inside the tub.
- Outlets: Outlets should be covered and no appliances, such as blow dryers, electric toothbrushes should be in reach.
- Toilets: Toilet bowl seat should also be locked in order to prevent drowning in the toilet bowl water.
Falls would be the primary cause of injury in a child’s bedroom, hence the famous nursery rhyme, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed”. But there are other things to be aware of.
- Carpet: Keep bedrooms carpeted if possible to prevent worsened injury from a fall. Non-slip rug pads are great to add beneath your rugs as well.
- Anchor furniture: Make sure furniture is anchored to the walls in the bedroom as well – kids will attempt to climb anything
- Storage: Avoid keeping loose small toys on the floor if you have a crawling infant or a curious toddler that could potentially ingest it.
Total House Safety
This is a list of all the other things in the house that you may not be thinking of, but should be taken care of.
- Firearms: If you decide to have guns in the house make sure they are unloaded and locked in separate cabinets from the bullets.
- Furnaces: Make sure all furnaces are covered to prevent severe burns on a wondering infant or toddlers.
- Window guards: These need to be installed in all households with young children. Try to never put chairs or furniture in front of a window as a child could climb up the furniture and cause serious injuries.
- Smoke alarms: Make sure they are installed and be checked often to make sure the battery and the alarm is working
For the fortunate kids living in homes with backyards (being from New York City, not many of us have that luxury!) parents need to make sure the yard is safe for your child.
- Gates: Make sure there’s gates if there’s stairs to go to the basement.
- Pools: Drowning safety should be exercised if the house has a pool, with fencing it in all 4 sides with at least a 4 foot fence and a self latching door
- Tools/Garage: Avoid having loose sharp gardening tools around
- Helmets: All kids (and frankly all adults) should be wearing helmets when riding scooters, bikes, skates or skateboards
- Automobiles: Make sure you put your child in their car seat or booster and installed correctly. Children under 2 years and 20lbs need to be in their rear facing car seats. Also for adults (and this may seem like common sense, but bares repeating), when pulling out of their driveway need to make sure there’s no children behind them if they see children playing. Kids are out and about a lot more now during the day.