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Household Safety: Preventing Strangulation and Entrapment

Kids can strangle or become entrapped in the most unexpected ways — even cords, strings on clothing, and infant furniture and accessories can be dangerous.

Avoiding Potential Hazards

You can protect kids from strangulation and entrapment by avoiding potential hazards and modifying certain household items:

  • Don't put necklaces or headbands on your baby.
  • Don't dress young kids in clothes with drawstrings, which are a strangulation hazard if caught on play equipment and furniture. Cut all drawstrings out of hoods, jackets, and waistbands out of your young child's wardrobe. Cut strings off mittens.
  • Don't leave a child alone in a stroller — babies can slide down and trap their head.
  • Don't use cribs with cutouts in the headboard or footboard.
  • Make sure your baby's crib mattress is the right size and fits snugly in the crib. This keeps a baby from getting caught between the mattress and the crib sides.
  • Don't put infants to sleep on adult beds, couches, or other soft surfaces.

  • Keep mobiles out of reach and remove from cribs by 5 months or once the child is able to push to hands and knees. Clip strings or ribbons off other crib toys.
  • If you choose to use crib bumpers, tie securely and trim excess string.
  • Make sure crib slats are no more than 2-3/8 inches (6 centimeters) apart; anything wider can trap a child's head.
  • Bunk beds should have only a narrow space between the guardrail and the mattress.
  • Don't tie a pacifier around your baby's neck or tether it to your baby's clothing with a ribbon or piece of string.
  • Don't hang diaper bags or purses on cribs — a baby can become entangled in the straps or strings.
  • Remove your infant's bib before naptime and bedtime.
  • Don't let long telephone cords dangle to the floor.
  • Don't use old accordion-style gates — these can trap a child's head.
  • Never put a crib, child's bed, or furniture near window blinds or drapery.
  • Tie all window blind and drapery cords, or cut the ends and attach safety tassels.
  • Fit the inner cords of blinds with cord stops.
  • Choose a toy chest without a lid.

Be Prepared

If you're expecting a baby or already have kids, it's wise to:

  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the age-appropriate Heimlich maneuver.
  • Keep the following near the phone (for yourself and caregivers):
    • toll-free poison-control number: (800) 222-1222
    • doctor's number
    • parents' work and cell phone numbers
    • neighbor's or nearby relative's number (if you need someone to watch other children in an emergency)
  • Make a first-aid kit and keep emergency instructions inside.
  • Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

Maintaining a Safe, Kid-Friendly Environment

To check your childproofing efforts, get down on your hands and knees in every room of your home to see things from a child's perspective. Be aware of your child's surroundings and what might be potentially dangerous.

Completely childproofing your home can be difficult. If you can't childproof the entire house, you can shut the doors (and install doorknob covers) to any room a child shouldn't enter to prevent wandering into places that haven't been properly childproofed. For sliding doors, doorknob covers and childproof locks are also great for keeping little ones from leaving your home. Of course, how much or how little you childproof your home is up to you. Supervision is the very best way to help prevent kids from getting injured. However, even the most vigilant parent can't keep a child 100% safe at all times.

Whether you have a baby, toddler, or school-age child, your home should be a haven where your little one can explore safely. After all, touching, holding, climbing, and exploring are the activities that develop your child's body and mind.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013