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Household Safety: Preventing Suffocation

Newborns and young infants can't easily raise their heads, so they need special protection from suffocation. But small children are at risk, too.

Protecting Kids From Suffocation

Protect kids from the dangers of suffocation by following these rules:

  • Always place an infant on his or her back to sleep. This is the safest position for a baby to sleep in to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Never place an infant face-down on soft surfaces such as a waterbed, comforter, sheepskin rug, or mattress cover.
  • Never put an infant in a crib or on a bed with soft bedding, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, or plush toys.
  • Avoid pillow-like bumpers and consider removing crib bumpers altogether.
  • Never put an infant down on a mattress covered with plastic or on or near a plastic bag.
  • 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.
  • Make sure your baby's crib sheet fits snugly on the mattress to keep it from coming off and getting wrapped around your baby's head. You also can buy crib sheet holders to keep sheets in place.
  • Don't put an infant to sleep on an adult bed, couch, or other soft surface.
  • Infants should not bed share with other children.
  • Don't share a bed with your infant. Bed-sharing puts babies at risk of suffocation, strangulation, and SIDS.  
  • Promptly dispose of plastic shopping bags and plastic dry-cleaning bags. Recycle these bags if you can, but if you have to dispose of them in the trash, tie several knots in each bag before throwing it out.
  • Keep all plastic bags, including garbage bags and sandwich-style plastic bags, out of the reach of young kids.
  • When cleaning up after a birthday or holiday party, pay special attention to all plastic bags from packaging. Collect them and throw them out immediately.
  • Keep balloons, including uninflated balloons, out of reach and immediately pick up and safely dispose of pieces of broken balloons.

Be Prepared

If you're expecting a baby or already have a child, it's a good idea to:

  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the age-appropriate Heimlich maneuver.
  • Keep these numbers near the phone (for yourself and caregivers):
    • toll-free poison-control number: 1-800-222-1222
    • doctor's number
    • parents' work and cellphone 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 for a kid's-eye view. Be aware of your child's surroundings and what could be 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. Doorknob covers and childproof locks for sliding doors 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. Keeping a close eye on kids is the very best way to protect them from injuries.

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

Date reviewed: November 2016

Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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