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Childproofing and Preventing Household Accidents

When was the last time you crawled around your home on your hands and knees? As strange as it sounds, give it a go. Kids explore their everyday environments, so it's crucial to check things out from their perspective to make sure your home is safe.

And though we often think of babies and toddlers when we hear the words "babyproofing" or "childproofing," unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in kids 14 years old and under, with more than a third of these injuries happening at home.

Safety Tips

Household injuries are one of the top reasons kids under age 3 visit the ER, and nearly 70% of the children who die from unintentional injuries at home are 4 years old and under. Young kids have the highest risk of being injured at home because that's where they spend most of their time.

Supervision is the best way to prevent injuries, in the home and out, but even the most watchful parents can't keep kids completely out of harm's way every second of the day.

Here are some simple ways to help prevent injuries in your own home.

Accidents That Can Happen at Home

The common causes of home-injury deaths are fire and burns, suffocation, drowning, choking, falls, poisoning, and firearms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most home accidents happen where there's:

  • water: in the bathroom, kitchen, swimming pools, or hot tubs
  • heat or flames: in the kitchen or at a barbecue grill
  • toxic substances: under the kitchen sink, in the medicine cabinet, in the garage or garden shed, or even in a purse or other place where medications are stored
  • potential for a fall: on stairs, slippery floors, from high windows, or from tipping furniture

You can take precautions to make these places safer, but the most important thing to remember is to watch young kids at all times. Even if your home is childproofed, it only takes an instant for babies and toddlers to fall, run over to a hot stove, or put the wrong thing in their mouths. Your watchfulness is your child's best defense.

However, accidents will still happen, so it's important to be prepared. If you're expecting a baby or have kids, it's wise to:

  1. Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the age-appropriate Heimlich maneuver.
  2. Keep the following near the phone (for yourself and caregivers):
    • poison-control number: 1-800-222-1222
    • doctor's number
    • parents' work and cell phone numbers
    • neighbor's or nearby relative's number (if you need someone to watch other kids in case of an emergency)
  3. Make a first-aid kit and keep emergency instructions inside.
  4. Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
Check out these Household Safety articles for more information:

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: February 2010