When I was around seven-years-old, I recall watching in amusement as my young cousin started to scale the tall bookcase in his family room wearing nothing but a diaper. My sisters and I giggled as he climbed, but our fun (at his expense) was quickly over when his parents walked in the room, gasped, swiftly lifted my cousin off the bookcase, and reprimanded us. Thankfully, the bookcase was a sturdy wooden built-in. The outcome could have been horribly different.
You’re probably very aware of the typical hazards in your home and you’ve likely taken precautions to protect yourself and your family. You’ve installed working fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors; you clean your clothes dryer and its lint trap regularly; follow all kitchen safety tips; keep blind cords out of children’s reach; and you’ve baby-proofed your home from top to bottom. However, there are other everyday items that pose safety risks that sometimes fly under the radar.
Dressers, bookshelves and even televisions can be a tipping hazard. In fact, Health Canada states that each year there are hundreds of incidents of furniture tipping over onto children under the age of 10. So, it’s important to anchor these items to the floor or wall with appropriate angle braces, anchors or safety straps. Check out Health Canada’s recommendations to help prevent the risk of injury.
Don’t rely on window screens to prevent someone from falling out of a window. Make sure windows are locked, or if you have them open, use childproof window guards (available at most local hardware or home safety stores). Also, move any furniture like chairs, or cribs away from windows to prevent children from climbing onto window sills.
3. Button batteries.
During the holiday season, I stocked up on button batteries to use in some trendy battery-operated string lights and I marveled at how they amped up my holiday decorating. While these coin-sized batteries are certainly handy, if a child swallows one, it can cause choking and internal burns in as little as two hours. So keep these batteries in a hard-to-reach cupboard.
4. Laundry pods.
Products are always being enhanced to make our lives easier. Think about single use “laundry pods” that are pre-measured and can be tossed into the washing machine. These lightweight, squishy, colourful packets are very attractive to young kids with inquisitive minds. But if they are ingested, they’re poisonous and can cause abdominal pain, vomiting or difficulty breathing. Children’s Health & Safety Association recommends storing these items high up and out of children’s reach. Also, it’s a good idea to install safety locks on cabinets where you store cleaning or chemical items.
5. Chests with latches.
As the head honcho of organization in my home, I pride myself on my “everything has its place” rule. From baskets to funky colour-coded bins and chests, all items are tucked away neatly. If you have heavy toy or “hope” chests with lids that latch shut, these could entrap a child as they reach down to pull something out. To avoid this, be sure to remove latching locks, and check chests to see if they have ventilation holes.
This appliance is so convenient, but it gives children easy access to sharp utensils and detergent that can be swallowed. When stocking the dishwasher, make sure to point utensils downward and don’t fill the dispenser with detergent until you’re ready to run the load. Also, keep the dishwasher closed and latched when not in use.
7. Vitamins and prescription medications.
Children’s vitamins are colourful and sweet, which may tempt them to take more than the recommended daily dosage. Aside from making sure the childproof lid is always secure, store bottles in hard-to-reach places. In terms of prescription medications, according to Drug Free Kids Canada, thousands of teens take prescriptions not actually prescribed to them. Secure your medications by installing a medicine cabinet with a lock and key, storing prescription drugs in a safe or locked drawer, and disposing of unused medication safely by returning them to a local pharmacy.
8. Latex balloons.
No party is complete without balloons! However, latex balloons are a choking hazard for humans and animals. Supervise kids if they’re playing with balloons and never let them blow up balloons until they are older. Also, if a balloon pops, find and throw away all the pieces immediately.
As the youngest of three girls, I certainly had my share of hand-me-downs. It’s a great cost-savings measure and it lets you enjoy some of the gear your siblings played with. But before you pass the toys down to younger kids, make sure they don’t have broken or missing parts and that they still meet safety regulations and haven’t been recalled.
10. Garage doors.
Make sure your garage doors are in good working order by testing them regularly to make sure they retract when an object is in its path. If not, this could injure someone walking or standing underneath them. If your doors are in need of repair, make sure to call a professional.
11. Baby oil.
I remember when I was getting ready to bring my newborn daughter home from the hospital, one of the nurses gave me a quick “things you probably don’t know” chat (thank you, Rose!). One of her tips was never to leave baby oil where my daughter could reach it. If ingested, it can cause serious lung damage or even death. While these bottles have child-resistant packaging, always make sure the cap is screwed on tightly and it’s stored up high and out of reach.
Think about how often you come home or have visitors over and purses and backpacks are placed on the floor. It only takes a few seconds for a small child to get into that bag where there may be items like medication, coins, hard candy or sharp objects. To prevent children from reaching in and playing with these objects or placing them in their mouths, place purses and bags in a closet or up high on a shelf where children can’t reach them.
Reminders and children’s artwork are often displayed on a fridge with magnets, but these can be dangerous to kids as they are a choking hazard. It’s a good idea to keep the lower part of your refrigerator free of magnets and check toys to make sure they are free of magnetic pieces that can be removed.
14. Charging cords.
You’ve got to love the digital age we live in. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got chargers for our phones, tablets and laptops practically in every room. They’re never far from reach. But if you have little ones at home, they can get an electric shock if they bite into the cord or put the charging end into their mouth. It’s best to keep these cords and wires tucked out of sight and out of reach.
15. Household plants.
Sure we all want to bring the outdoors indoors with some lush greenery, but choose wisely as some plants and flowers may be poisonous to children and pets if ingested. Check out abouthealthkids.ca, a SickKids® website, for a list of some poisonous plants, tips on how to keep kids safe, and instructions on what to do if they ingest a toxic plant.
Take some time and look around your home for some of these household hazards and make sure to keep the safety lines of communication open with your family.
Have any other common household items that can be a safety risk? Let us know in the comments below.