The Best Tips to Childproof Your Home for Safety
Author: Brandon Jarman
Whether you’re looking to make improvements to your home for a new family addition or you’re prepping your house to get ready to sell, making your home childproof is a valuable and tangible way to protect young inhabitants. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that 9.2 million children visit the hospital each year for unintentional injuries of all causes, with more than 12,000 children ages 1 to 19 dying, helping to prevent tragic accidents at home is vital. Many of the home improvements are simple yet key fixes, and there are even ways to help prevent illness in addition to injuries.
1. Preventing Illness
Parents often think of humidifiers only when their children contract seasonal viruses, but installing humidifiers throughout your home can help benefit kids’ health year-round. They can help alleviate the symptoms of congestion, asthma, or cold and flu viruses, and they also can offer relief from the irritation that can cause nosebleeds, chapped lips, or sinus infections. In cold-climate regions, especially, your home’s humidity can drop significantly in the winter months, causing drier nose and lung passages and potential health problems.
While portable humidifiers are fine for single rooms, consider a central humidifier for household effectiveness. These can be attached to your home’s furnace and allow you to monitor your house’s relative humidity. Remember, too much humidity can result in problems with condensation and mold—keeping home humidity between 35% and 45% is ideal. Warm-mist humidifiers can also kill bacteria and mold by heating the water before sending it throughout your home.
2. Preventing injury
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends installing 12 safety devices in your home to help ensure child safety. Most are inexpensive, standard measures that add a strong level of prevention and protection for kids. They include safety latches and locks on cabinets to keep kids from accessing dangerous or sharp objects, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, outlet covers and plates to prevent electrocution, wall anchors on furniture and TVs, corner and edge bumpers on cabinets and tables, and more.
For homes with young children, the CPSC also recommends installing cordless window coverings to prevent strangulation in hanging window cords (these can also protect pets). While window coverings are a more expensive replacement item, homeowners can obtain a free repair kit from the Window Covering Safety Council at 800-506-4636 or by visiting WindowCoverings.org to fix older window coverings without replacing.
3. Preventing drowning
Drowning is the leading cause of death by unintentional injury for children between ages 1 and 4, and the second-leading cause for children ages 5 to 9 behind car accidents, according to the CDC. While residential swimming pools can add to a home’s appeal and value, they also pose one of the greatest dangers to small children. Installing a four-sided fence with a locking gate is the safest option, especially for those living in populated residential areas with lots of curious kids. Pools may attract curious neighborhood children, and most drownings happen when nobody’s swimming, and no one is attending the pool. Even a three-sided fence with access from the house poses a danger if children are able to access the pool through an unlocked door. While fencing may detract from the overall look of your property, consider the tragic alternative.
Remember, also, that it doesn’t take a lot of water to cause a drowning. Clean up kiddie pools and other rain-catching items that can cause a hazard. Consider fencing if you have a pond.
4. Preventing falls
Falls cause the most nonfatal injuries in children each year, accounting for about 8,000 emergency room visits annually. Wall-attached gates at the bottom and top of stairs can help prevent a tumble. Safety gates also can be used to keep children out of rooms that are difficult to childproof, such as workshops or craft rooms filled with sharp or small objects.
Don’t rely on screens to prevent a fall out of a window – they can easily be pushed out by the weight of a small child. Instead, install window guards to keep the opening narrow (about four inches maximum). Just be sure to include an emergency release device to allow for escape during a fire. For balconies and decks, safety netting can be installed to help prevent falls.
5. Preventing burns
Children playing with fire start almost 400 fires per week nationally, causing 1,000 injuries and 150 deaths. The simple act of keeping lighters and matches out of reach and out of sight will help prevent the temptation. But it doesn’t take a fire to cause burns—children can be scalded by hot water from the faucet. Set your water heater temperature to less than 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and add anti-scald devices on faucets to regulate water temperature.
Cooking fires account for the most house fires, and when you’re purchasing a new stove, keep an eye out for features that will help protect your family, such as automatic shut-off features and locking oven doors. Always keep fire extinguishers readily available in your home, and make sure your smoke detectors are in working order with batteries changed twice a year. Smoke detectors belong on every floor of your home. Keep fireplaces clean to avoid a chimney fire.
6. Preventing toxicity
When it’s time to renovate, choosing paints, coatings, flooring, and other materials rated for non-toxicity can help keep children healthy both in the short- and long-term. Some of these products can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can cause symptoms such as eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. Long-term effects can include damage to kidneys, the liver, and may be connected to some cancers. Watch for paints and coatings with zero or low VOCs. Most remodeling and building items have non-toxic alternatives. You can even find stains, sealers, strippers, and thinners that are non-toxic.
Childproofing your home for safety can start with simple fixes, and bigger changes are worth the investment, making your home both a valuable and safe place to live.