Making Your Home Safe for Children

Every year, thousands of children are hurt or killed in home incidents. But with a little care, many incidents can be prevented.

Unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in children. The type of accident and injury to some degree depends on the age of your child.

Causes of injury include:

  • Suffocation (the leading cause of injury in infants)

  • Falls

  • Burns

  • Cuts

  • Cars

  • Insect bites

  • Bikes

  • Foreign bodies (such as swallowing objects)

  • Poisoning

  • Drowning

This can seem overwhelming. But the important thing to remember is that you can reduce these risks by taking the following precautions.

General tips

Look for safety hazards in your home from your child’s viewpoint. Get down on your hands and knees and look around. Think about what looks enticing to a child. These tips can help you get started.

  • Cleaning supplies, medicines, vitamins, and some personal items (such as cologne) can be toxic to children. Lock them in a cabinet out of reach of children.

  • Use plug protectors on all unused electrical outlets. Keep them in their original containers so you know what they are if a child gets into them.

  • Keep matches, lighters, and other sources of flame out of children’s reach.

  • Keep knives, scissors, and other sharp utensils out of children’s reach.

  • Keep your hot water heater at 120°F (48.8°C) or lower to prevent burns. A child’s skin is more sensitive to heat than an adult’s, and can burn more easily.

  • Even 1 inch of water can pose a drowning risk for small children. Buckets are a common hazard, so empty buckets when not in use and turn them over. Never leave a small child alone in water, including the bathtub, or an inflatable swimming pool. Drain sinks or tubs when done with them. And use toilet seat locks to protect toddlers.

  • Cook on back burners whenever possible. Keep handles of pots and pans turned toward the back of the stove.

  • Secure large TVs and other heavy furniture with a wall strap. This keeps them from falling over if a child climbs or pulls on them.

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including in the basement and outside all sleeping areas. Test smoke alarms monthly, and change the batteries once a month or when the alarm chirps. Don’t shut off smoke alarms, even for a short time.

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors near sleeping areas. Carbon monoxide is a gas that you can’t see, smell, or taste—and it can be deadly. Test carbon monoxide detectors monthly.

  • Make sure crib slats are no more than 2⅜ inches apart (about the width of a soda can). Wider slats can trap a baby’s head. If you use a playpen, it should have small-mesh sides (less than ¾ inch mesh).  Up-to-date crib safety information can be found at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website at www.cpsc.gov.

  • Keep plastic bags away from small children. Children have suffocated after putting bags over their heads.

  • A good rule of thumb: Don’t let your small child play with any item that is small enough to fit through a toilet paper tube. These items are small enough for a child to swallow and choke on.

Special note to parents

Keep a list of emergency information near every phone in the house. This should include your address and emergency phone numbers, such as Poison Control (800-222-1222). Consider taking a class in basic first aid and CPR for children.

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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