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Safety Tips

Child Safety Basics

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Updated October 07, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Accidents are hardly rare events.

Despite the people who say that we are at the point that kids are practically bubble wrapped and don't take any risks, accidents are still the leading cause of death for kids at almost all ages.

Following some simple safety tips can help protect your kids from these common dangers.

  • Learn CPR.
  • Use a layers-of-protection plan to keep your kids safe.
  • Don't drive and text or talk on your cell phone.
  • Set a good example by always wearing a seat belt, bike helmet, etc.
  • Regularly inspect toys, gates, latches and other items to make sure they are still in good working order, haven't been recalled and can't hurt your kids.

Fire Safety Tips

Fire safety quick stats - Each year there are just over 350,000 residential fires in the U.S., causing about 2,500 deaths and 13,000 injuries. About 500 of these deaths are in children and teens.

  • Install and regularly test smoke alarms throughout your home (especially inside bedrooms, outside sleeping areas and on each floor, etc.).
  • Store matches and lighters in childproofed drawers or cabinets.
  • Develop and regularly practice a home fire-escape plan with your family.

What's the biggest fire safety mistake you can make? It is probably not having a working smoke alarm in your home, usually because it has been disconnected or the battery was removed.

Car Safety Tips

Car safety quick stats - Each year about 1,700 children die in motor-vehicle-related deaths.

  • Use an age-appropriate car seat or booster seat until your child is ready for regular seat belts.
  • Sit kids in the back seat until they are 13 years old.
  • Don't let kids ride in the cargo area of a pickup truck.
  • Lock your car and secure your keys so that your kids can't get back into the car - a risk for hot car deaths.
  • Teach kids about pedestrian safety, including safe ways to cross the street.

The biggest car safety mistake many parents make is moving to regular seat belts before their child is ready. Remember that kids should ride in a booster seat until they are 8 to 12 years old and seat belts fit properly.

Water Safety Tips

Water safety quick stats - Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in younger children. In addition to backyard pools, bathtubs and buckets of water can be drowning hazards.

  • Never leave a young child alone in a bathtub or basin, even if it only has a small amount of water and even if you will be away for only a few minutes.
  • Empty water from buckets when you are done using them, and never leave young children unsupervised around buckets with even small amounts of water.
  • Put a fence around your backyard pool, with a self-closing and self-latching gate.
  • Empty small wading pools when they are not in use.
  • Remove the ladder or steps from an above-ground pool whenever you get out of the pool.
  • Teach your kids to swim and have them wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket until they can swim well.
  • Get your kids to wear a life jacket when they are on a lake, river or other body of water, even if they know how to swim.
  • Closely supervise kids who are in or around the water, even if they know how to swim.

In addition to not childproofing the pool, perhaps the most common accident that leads to drowning is not having a child wear a life jacket the whole time they are in or around the water, with the child getting back in the water at some point and drowning.

Home Safety Tips

Home safety quick stats - Poisoning, suffocation, strangulation, falls and gun accidents are all on the top 10 leading causes of accidental deaths for children. That makes it important to get your home well childproofed before your baby is mobile and can get hurt.

  • Put baby gates on the tops and bottoms of stairs.
  • Place latches or locks on cabinets and drawers.
  • Use child-resistant caps on medicines and regularly clean out your medicine cabinet.
  • Anchor furniture to the floor or wall to prevent tip-over accidents.
  • Place TVs on sturdy furniture that has been anchored to the floor or wall.
  • Lock rooms that aren't childproofed.

Although most parents get their home babyproofed and childproofed, many let their guard down as their kids get a little older. They may take the gates down a little too soon, start to leave poisonous chemicals out or stop latching cabinets.

Even if your kids are growing up, if you regularly have younger kids visiting, consider keeping some of the childproofing barriers in place, like the latches on cabinets. Others -- such as gates on stairs -- you can probably take down once your child can learn to open the gate on his or her own, especially since they probably aren't going to routinely shut the gate on their own.



Sources:

National Center for Health Statistics. 20 Leading Causes of Death, United States. 2000 - 2008, All Races, Both Sexes. Accessed October 2011.

U.S. Fire Administration Fire Estimates. Fire Estimate Summaries of Residential Building Fire Trends and Causes (2005-2009).

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