Oh, Baby! Protect Your Wee One from These 5 Household Hazards

When your cutie starts crawling or your toddler starts walking, it’s time to take action

Tara Rummell Berson (@crankycrusher) HomeFebruary 12, 2015

When the little babe who used to lie helpless in his crib suddenly figures out how to get around, your home instantly becomes a more dangerous place, with hazards lurking where you may least expect them.

Chances are you already covered your electrical outlets, hid dangling cords and addressed basic safety do’s during your baby’s first year. But now it’s time to step up your safety game.

Start by viewing your home from a new angle. “Get down on your hands and knees and look for hazards from your little one’s perspective,” says child safety expert Debra Smiley Holtzman, author of “The Safe Baby: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Safety and Healthy Living.”

Holtzman highlights these five hazards that parents of crawlers, climbers and walkers should watch for.

1. Large and heavy tipping hazards. Kids will climb on anything to reach something they want. The results of children climbing on or near furniture and TVs can be fatal. One child dies every two weeks when a piece of furniture or a TV falls over onto them, according the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. When a TV falls from an average-size dresser, it can fall with the force of thousands of pounds. A victim underneath is it struck by a force more than 10 times as powerful as a tackle by an NFL lineman.

Be safe: Tipping hazards, such as TVs, microwaves, fish tanks, bookcases, heavy furniture and appliances must be anchored. Secure heavy items to the wall using brackets, braces, anchors or wall straps. “Always read and follow the manufacturer's instructions for tips or warnings regarding placement of your TV or furniture,” advises Holtzman.

John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for UL, adds this advice: "Never place anything such as the TV remote or any food that might attract a child on top of the TV." In addition, "Never place a TV on a dresser, since children have been injured by opening the drawers and using them as steps to get at the TV."

Related: Large TVs Mean High-Definition Danger

2. Houseplants. If you have kids under six (or pets), it’s important to check whether any of the plants in and around your home are toxic. Two common household plants that pose a risk are Philodendron and Dieffenbachia (also called “dumb cane”). These plants contain oxalates, small crystals that get released into the mouth when the plant is chewed. The crystals cause extreme pain and inflammation.

Be safe: If your child ingests a plant leaf and you’re not sure if the plant is potentially poisonous, note how much she ate. Then immediately call the national Poison Help Hotline (available 24 hours a day, seven days a week) at 1-800 222-1222. The hotline automatically connects you to your local poison center. “Prominently post this number on your refrigerator, and put this number in your cell phone,” says Holtzman. Take the plant with you if you’re advised to go to the ER or urgent care center.


plant in house (Photo: Chayatorn Laorattanavech/Shutterstock)

3. Toilets. A child can drown in just an inch of water, so make sure your curious little one doesn’t have access to any open toilets. The same goes for buckets, bathtubs, sinks and coolers filled with water. The main reason these pose a hazard is that small children are top-heavy and don’t have the upper-body strength to lift themselves out if they find themselves submerged head down.

Be safe: Shut the lid after using the toilet, and install childproof locks that make it difficult for a toddler to lift up the lid. Empty buckets, tubs and other containers after using them. “Neverleave children alone, even for second, in a bathtub or near any water — even a bucket with a small amount of liquid,” says Holtzman. “Always stay within arm’s reach of a child near water, giving them your undivided attention. If you must leave, take the child with you.”

4. Button batteries. When swallowed, these small, coin-shaped batteries (also known as coin cell batteries) can get stuck in your child’s throat or lodged in the stomach or intestines. Saliva triggers an electric current which causes a chemical reaction that can severely burn the esophagus in as little as two hours. Chances are you have several of these batteries in your home. They’re used to power remote controls, toys, musical greeting cards, flameless candles, calculators, watches, hearing aids and other electronics.

Be safe: “Tape battery compartments closed and keep these objects locked away, out of the reach of small children,” recommends Holtzman.


button batteries (Photo: kiri11/Shutterstock)

Related: Parents: Beware of Button Batteries

5. Your shoes. “Pesticides and other toxins that cause harm to humans can be easily tracked into the home on the soles of shoes, and can settle into the
carpet where your child plays, sits and crawls,” says Holtzman.

Be safe: Add a welcome mat at your front door for family members and guests to wipe their feet. Even better, have everyone remove their shoes before entering your home.

Take the time to put these safety measures into place and you’ll stay one step ahead of your little one.

Tara Rummell Berson is a health and wellness writer and editor. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Redbook, WebMD and The Huffington Post.