|Whether your children live with you or not, there are certain things you need to do to make sure they'll stay safe and injury free when they're in your apartment or house. Keep in mind that children should always be closely supervised to prevent accidents.
- Routinely check for toy recalls. Sometimes a toy or game will be recalled due to a newfound health risk or choking hazard. To keep up-to-date on the latest warnings and recalls for any toys your children might have, visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site.
- Be cautious about magnets. Whether they come loose from a toy, a building set, or a piece of jewelry, magnets are extremely dangerous if swallowed. Keep them away from kids under 6, but be on the constant lookout for loose magnets around children of any age and explain to them that they should never put any toy or object in their mouth.
- Secure heavy furniture to the wall. It's common for young children to pull bureaus or wardrobes down on top of them.
- Inspect your window blind cords. These can pose a major strangulation danger. Your best bet is to buy cord-free blinds. But if your blinds are an older version and have a looped cord, cut the loop and remove the buckle. Then put safety tassels on each cord. Also look into tension devices for vertical blinds and drapery cords. For much more detailed safety information on cord dangers and safety, visit the Window Cover Safety Council Web site or call 1-800-506-4636.
- Install window guards and safety netting. Window screens aren't enough to protect your child from a potential fall, so be sure that all windows, balconies, decks, and landings are properly protected. Keep in mind, though, that one window in each room should remain easily accessible in the case of a fire. It's city law that window guards approved by the Department of Health be installed and maintained by the owner, manager, or agent of a multiple dwelling (a building with three or more units). If you have a child under the age of 10 living in your apartment and your landlord has refused to protect your windows, call 1-877-NYC-DOH7 (1-877-692-3647) immediately. For more information on city window safety guidelines, read the NYC Health Department press release.
- Gaps in window guards should be no wider than four inches apart. And as an extra level of protection, move all furniture away from your windows so kids can't climb up on it, creating a dangerous situation.
- Install smoke detectors on every level of your home. The smartest place to put them is right outside everyone's bedrooms. Do monthly checkups to be sure that they're all working properly and that the batteries aren't dead.
- Get carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide gas is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, which is why it often goes unnoticed. Some common carbon monoxide culprits: car exhaust fumes, tobacco smoke, and poorly ventilated gas space heaters. Just like with smoke detectors, the smartest place to put these devices is right outside each bedroom. The best way to cut your risk of having carbon monoxide problems is to have any fuel-burning appliance inspected annually to make sure it's functioning properly.
- Cover electrical outlets. To protect your kid from being electrocuted, cover any outlets within his or her reach. Make sure all outlet covers are secure, that they can't be easily removed, and that they're big enough that your little kids can't choke on them if they do somehow become unfastened.
- Use door stops and door holders. These will help keep your child's hands and fingers safe from painful pinches, slamming, or even amputation. If a doorstop has a plastic end cap on it, remove it to prevent it from becoming a choking hazard.
- Keep your water at a safe temperature. Prevent accidental scalding by setting your water heater temperature no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in an apartment and don't have control over your own water temperature setting, you can get anti-scald devices for individual showerheads and faucets, although they may require installation by a plumber.
- Put a padded cover over the spout of your shower's faucet. And put nonslip decals or mats on the floor of your tub or shower. You ultimately want to reduce the risk of your child slipping in the tub, but if he does, the spout cover will help to reduce head injuries.
- Invest in safety gates. You need to make sure your children don't fall down the stairs or enter a room that's dangerous or "off limits." If you're installing a gate at the top of a flight of stairs, get a version that screws into the wall, rather than one that's pressure-mounted. Pressure-mounted gates can easily be dislodged by the persistent shaking of a child. Steer clear of older, hand-me-down gates with "V" shapes in them. Your child's head could get trapped inside.
- Soften hard and/or sharp edges with furniture bumpers. If your kid falls and bumps his head against them, this will soften the blow.
- Lock up all sharp objects and poisonous substances. Protect all cabinets and drawers containing knives, scissors, cleaning supplies, chemicals, alcohol, etc., with safety latches or locks. Dangerous substances are usually in abundance in the kitchen and bathroom, so pay extra close attention to those two rooms. And just because something has a childproof cap on, it doesn't mean that your child won't be resourceful enough to get it open. Take the extra precaution to keep all prescription and over-the-counter medicines out of their reach.
- Always keep all firearms and ammunition locked up and out of your children's reach.
- List the numbers of your pediatrician, the closest hospital, emergency service, and poison-control center near the main telephone. It's the best way to keep them handy for you or anyone else that may be watching your kid.
- Use door knob covers and door locks. If you have rooms or areas of your house with potential dangers in them, make sure the door has a working lock on it. You can also use knob covers, which an adult could turn easily but children can't.
- Remove the knobs on your stove and cover the burners when they're not in use. Children sometimes try to play with the stove and they can burn themselves or start a fire.
- Only use "cool" night-lights that don't get hot. And be sure that the night-light isn't touching your child's bedding, drapes, or other potentially flammable material.
- Clean all cool mist humidifiers regularly. Empty them when they're not being used. This prevents bacteria and mold from growing in the still water.
- Beware of your kid's toy box. A heavy, hinged lid can fall on top of a child and trap him inside. Either buy one without a cover, or remove it if it's heavy.
- Invest in a cordless phone. This will enable you to freely roam about your apartment or home so that you can always keep an eye on your little ones.
- Move the family computer into a general room. This way, you can more closely monitor your child's online activity. Also consider blocking, filtering, and ratings programs that will help you in your efforts to keep your kids safe from online predators and objectionable content. Remember, though: No program is foolproof and the best way to keep your child safe is to always be mindful of what sites your kids are visiting and who your kids are communicating with while they're on the computer.