Danger Zones: Home Safety for Children and Teens
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Danger Zones: Home Safety for Children and Teens

The most heartbreaking of all the cases healthcare providers see are the serious ones that affect children and teens. Even one such incident would be too many, and yet more than 2,200 U.S. children die in home accidents every year. What’s even more troubling is that so many could have been prevented. The recommendations below point out the danger zones for each age group and simple steps you can take to prevent accidents and injuries.

Youngest Children
Put children in their own bassinet or crib and
on their back to sleep. Cribs and bassinets should be empty of blankets, pillows, bumpers, and stuffed animals, all of which can pose a suffocation risk. Do not sleep with your child in your bed, on a couch, or in a recliner. And never leave child alone on a bed or changing table. Falling from a height could cause serious injury.

Never leave a child unsupervised in or near water.
Drowning is the leading cause of injury related death in children ages 1 – 4. Being able to scooch, crawl, and walk presents new hazards for curious kids. Gate both the top and bottom of stairs. In the kitchen, turn pot handles in, so they are not accessible to a child reaching up. Put sharp objects out of reach, and block all outlets throughout the house with outlet covers Be sure to keep harmful chemicals up high or in locked cabinets. Many are brightly colored and look like kids’ favorite drinks.

Children who can see over counters might mistake medications for candy. Keep all medicines in their original child-safe packaging and out of sight and reach. Think of all of the places your child might find medications, including in purses, in nightstand drawers, and while visiting others. Close bottles tightly after each use.

Older Children and Teens
Dispose of unused and expired medications in a drug-take-back box. There is one accessible to the public 24/7/365 in the waiting area of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center’s Emergency Department.

Keep alcohol and firearms locked and inaccessible to children and teens. Kits for storing firearms responsibly are available for free from many local law enforcement agencies. Educate yourself about teen mental health, be aware of the signs your child may be having difficulty, and learn about the local resources you can use to get them help.

Educate your child or teen about the risks of using the Internet. They include cyberbullying, online predators, and exposure to inappropriate content. Use parental controls and monitor your child’s Internet use. Once they are old enough to operate online independently, teach them about the dangers and ensure they follow safety guidelines.

For the safety of the entire family, prepare for a fire emergency. Test fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors monthly and ensure that everyone in the family knows the fire escape plan. If a fire happens, get out, stay out, and call for help.

Keeping the children you love safe at home and while visiting you does take additional care and attention. Avoiding a horrible tragedy is worth every moment of effort.

Meghan Gunn, MD, is a pediatrician at SVMC Pediatrics and the chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care in Bennington.


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