By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly
Many common household items that wouldn’t normally be considered dangerous may pose serious strangulation or entrapment risks for young children. Please keep the following suggestions in mind when childproofing your home:
• Remove drawstrings from hoods, jackets and waistbands of your child’s clothing. The strings can get caught on furniture or playground equipment. If your child has mittens that are attached with a string, cut the string.
• Don’t put necklaces or headbands on your baby.
• Never leave a child in a stroller alone, because small children can slide down and become trapped.
• Don’t use cribs with cutouts in the headboard or footboard.
• Do not tie a pacifier around your baby’s neck or tether it to your child’s clothing with a ribbon or a piece of string.
• Do not hang diaper bags or purses on cribs — babies can become entangled in straps or strings.
• Secure wires, such as long telephone or electrical cords.
• Do not use older accordion-style safety gates. Children can get their heads trapped in them.
• Tie up all window blind and drapery cords. Keep cribs and playpens away from window coverings. Even the inner cords that hold window blinds together can strangle a child.
• Remove mobiles from cribs once a child is able to stand or sit up without help.
• Clip strings or ribbons off of crib toys, and cut strings on crib bumpers to less than 6 inches.
• Make sure the space between crib slats is no larger than 2 3/8 inches. The same goes for older playpens.
• Remove hinged lids from toy boxes or chests and leave them off.
• Put all plastic bags away, even if they are filled. Most accidents involving plastic bags occur with dry cleaning bags, garbage bags, bags being used for storage and bags used to protect beds or furniture.
• Children can get trapped inside large appliances, such as refrigerators, freezers and clothes dryers. Childproof your utility room. If discarding old latch-style refrigerators, remove the door first. (If the door will not come off, remove or disable the latch so that it cannot lock when closed, or chain and padlock the door.)
• Recliners have caused death and brain injury to children. A child can become trapped if her head enters the space above the footrest and her body forces the footrest down.
• Balloons have caused more deaths in children than any other toy because they can become trapped inside a child’s throat and cut off air by taking the shape of the child’s windpipe. Choose Mylar balloons rather than rubber balloons.
• Consider learning CPR.
Dr. Sally Robinson is a pediatrician in the division of children’s special services at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. She teaches medical students about caring for children with chronic medical conditions. Dr. Keith Bly is a hospitalist and assistant professor of pediatrics at UTMB.
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