About 2-1/2 million children are injured or killed by hazards in the home each year. The good news is that many of these incidents can be prevented by using simple child safety devices on the market today.
Any safety device you buy should be sturdy enough to prevent injury to your child, yet easy for you to use. It's important to follow installation instructions carefully. In addition, if you have older children in the house, be sure they re-secure safety devices. Remember, too, that no device is completely childproof; determined youngsters have been known to disable them.
You can childproof your home for a fraction of what it would cost to have a professional do it. And safety devices are easy to find. You can buy them at hardware stores, baby equipment shops, supermarkets, drug stores, home and linen stores, and through mail order catalogues.
Here are some child safety devices that can help prevent many injuries to young children:
Look for safety latches and locks that adults can easily install and use, but are sturdy enough to withstand pulls and tugs from children. Safety latches are not a guarantee of protection, but they can make it more difficult for children to reach dangerous substances. Even products with child-resistant packaging should be locked away, out of reach; this packaging is not childproof.
Typical cost of a safety latch or lock: less than $2.
New safety gates that meet safety standards display a certification seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). If you have an older safety gate, be sure it doesn't have "V" shapes that are large enough for a child's head and neck to fit into.
Typical cost of a safety gate: $13 to $40.
Be sure the door knob cover is sturdy enough not to break, but allows a door to be opened quickly by an adult in case of emergency. By restricting access to potentially hazardous rooms in the home, door knob covers could help prevent many kinds of injuries. To prevent access to swimming pools, door locks should be placed high out of reach of young children. Locks should be used in addition to fences and door alarms. Sliding glass doors, with locks that must be re-secured after each use, are often not an effective barrier to pools.
Typical cost of a door knob cover: $1 and door lock: $5 and up.
Consider using anti-scald devices for faucets and showerheads. A plumber may need to install these. In addition, if you live in your own home, set water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to help prevent burns from hot water.
Typical cost of an anti-scald device: $6 to $30.
Check smoke detectors once a month to make sure they're working.
If detectors are battery-operated, change batteries at least once a year or consider using 10-year batteries.
Typical cost of a smoke detector: less than $10.
Check these safety devices frequently to make sure they are secure and properly installed and maintained. There should be no more than four inches between the bars of the window guard. If you have window guards, be sure at least one window in each room can be easily used for escape in a fire. Window screens are not effective for preventing children from falling out of windows.
Typical cost of a window guard or safety netting: $8 to $16.
Be sure to look for bumpers that stay securely on furniture or hearth edges.
Typical cost of a corner and edge bumper: $1 and up.
Be sure the outlet protectors cannot be easily removed by children and are large enough so that children cannot choke on them.
Typical cost of an outlet cover: less than $2.
Typical cost of a carbon monoxide (CO) detector: $30 to $70.
For older miniblinds, cut the cord loop, remove the buckle, and put safety tassels on each cord. Be sure that older vertical blinds and drapery cords have tension or tie-down devices to hold the cords tight. When buying new miniblinds, verticals, and draperies, ask for safety features to prevent child strangulation.
Be sure any safety device for doors is easy to use and is not likely to break into small parts, which could be a choking hazard for young children.
Typical cost of a door stop and door holder: less than $4.
Cordless phones help you watch your child continuously, without leaving the vicinity to answer a phone call. Cordless phones are especially helpful when children are in or near water, whether it's the bathtub, the swimming pool, or the beach.
Typical cost of a cordless phone: $30 and up.