About 2,700 children in the United States under age 14 die from accidental injuries at home each year. Around 80 percent of these deaths are among children ages 4 and younger. Most fatal injuries at home are caused by fire, suffocation, drowning, choking, falls, poisoning or firearms.
Safe Kids Fayette County, a program led by Kentucky Children's Hospital, urges parents and caregivers to check their homes for basic safety issues. There's no substitute for active supervision, but child-proofing your home provides extra protection and peace of mind.
The first step in child-proofing a home is to explore every room at a child's eye level. Literally get down on your hands and knees and crawl around. Anything that can fit through a standard 1½ -inch toilet paper tube is a potential choking hazard. Of course, cleaning products, medications, alcohol, firearms and other potentially harmful products need to be stored out of reach and locked up.
Safe Kids Fayette County also recommends these precautions:
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■ Test your smoke alarms every month. Make sure you have working smoke alarms in every level of your home, outside each sleeping area and in every bedroom. Check batteries once a year.
■ Check for fire hazards such as frayed electrical wires or flammable materials near heating appliances. Change the batteries at least once a year.
■ Always supervise children while they're in the bathroom. Set your water heater at 120 degrees and test the bath water with your wrist or elbow before putting your child in it. Keep toilet lids closed and locked, and doors to bathrooms and utility rooms closed. When not in use, put razors, curling irons and hair dryers out of reach of children. Never leave young children alone in the bathtub — a child can drown in a matter of seconds.
■ Install a self-closing and self-latching gate around the home swimming pool. Make sure the fence surrounds the entire pool and is at least five feet high.
■ Prevent serious falls. Keep furniture away from windows, install guards or stops on windows that are not emergency exits, install safety gates at the top and the bottom of stairs, never use baby walkers and use protective surfaces beneath playground equipment.
■ Avoid exposing children to potential poisons. Lock up out of children's reach potential poisons such as cleaning supplies, pet food, medicine, vitamins, and alcoholic beverages.
■ Read labels and follow directions when giving medicine to children. Know which houseplants are poisonous and keep them where children can't reach them.
■ Install carbon monoxide detectors in the basement at least 15 feet from fossil-fuel burning appliances and every sleeping area. Be sure to test detectors every month. This invisible, odorless gas can be fatal. Make sure heating systems are vented outside and checked every year.
■ Check your first-aid kit to make sure it is fully stocked. Make sure baby sitters know where to find first-aid supplies and how to handle an emergency.