According to the CPSC, more than 1 million possible poisonings of children under age 5 are reported and an average of 30 children die from poisoning each year.
Be prepared. Keep the number for the national poison control center — (800) 222-1222 in the United States — and your local emergency numbers close to every phone.
Store poisonous products out of your child's reach. Put safety locks on all cabinets and drawers that hold bug sprays, cleaning products, medications, and other potential poisons. Remember that even some houseplants can be harmful if ingested.
Dispose of old or outdated medications. But don't flush them down the toilet or pour them down the drain, as they could contaminate the water supply. If you live in the United States, ask your local waste disposal agency whether there's a program in place for safely getting rid of them. You can also ask whether your pharmacy will take back expired medication. If these options aren't available, you'll have to throw the drugs away in the trash — but first be sure to secure them so your little one can't get to them.
Watch out for hidden poisons. Not all poisons are easy to spot. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas produced by malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, water heaters, ovens, stoves, gas dryers, and emergency generators. Although you can't see it, smell it, or taste it, carbon monoxide gas can be deadly.
To protect your family, install a carbon monoxide detector in every sleeping area in your home, including the nursery. Check the batteries every spring and fall when you change your clocks. If the alarm goes off, leave your home immediately and call 911 or the local emergency number.
Look out for lead. If you live in a building constructed before 1978, it may contain lead paint. Lead paint is especially dangerous to your child if it's flaking or peeling. Lead can also be found in tap water from older pipes that are lined or soldered with lead. Breathing lead dust or fumes or swallowing anything with lead in it can give a child lead poisoning, which can cause learning disabilities, kidney disease, brain damage, growth delay, and other problems.
If there's exposed or deteriorating lead paint in your home, have a licensed professional either remove it completely or cover it with an approved sealant. Until the lead can be removed, wash your child's hands and face, as well as his toys, often to reduce his exposure to lead-contaminated dust. For information on how to get a paint sample analyzed, visit the National Lead Information Center's Web site or call (800) 424-5323.
According to the CPSC, about 115 children under age 5 drown each year — not in a pool, but in their own home.
Tubs, toilets, and even buckets of water are all potential dangers. That's why it's important to practice water safety at home.
Most in-home drowning deaths occur in bathtubs. Never leave your baby unattended in the tub — even if he's in a ring or bath seat. In fact, supervise your child whenever he's in the bathroom, and install a safety latch on your toilet lid to prevent him from accidentally falling in. For more helpful hints, see childproofing your bathroom.
Infants and toddlers can drown in as little as an inch of water, according to the CPSC. This seemingly unlikely scenario happens because young children are top-heavy. If they lose their balance (as they often do) while peering into a toilet or bucket, they can fall in headfirst and get stuck.
Never leave a bucket of water or other liquid unattended. If you're using a bucket of water for mopping or cleaning, pour out the water as soon as you're finished.
Finally, take great care around pools and hot tubs. If you have a wading pool, drain it and store it upright after each use. If you have a permanent pool, enclose it with a fence that's at least 4 feet high, and lock the gate leading to the pool after each use. Always secure the cover on your spa or hot tub.
Nearly 2,500 children were injured or killed in residential fires, and more than half of those children were under the age of 5, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Experts say that a working smoke alarm can cut in half the chances of dying in a fire. Install smoke alarms in every room of the house. Check them monthly to be sure they're working, and change the batteries every year. Consider installing smoke alarms that use long-life (10-year) batteries.
If you have a fireplace, keep a fire extinguisher nearby, and have it serviced or checked according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Start talking to your child about the dangers of fire. Make an evacuation plan and practice your fire escape route regularly.
Do you hate the feel of flame-retardant sleepwear? Softer, non-flame-retardant garments can be okay under certain conditions. See our article Childproofing Your Nursery for details.
Prepare for an emergency
Program emergency numbers into your home phones and cell phone. Keep a list of these numbers close to each phone in your home and give the list to all caregivers. Have on hand the local poison control number, or the number for the national poison control center, (800) 222-1222 in the United States, which will immediately put you in contact with the closest center.
Stock up on first-aid supplies. Make sure babysitters and other caregivers know where to find these supplies in your home and how to respond in an emergency.