This is Part 9 in a multi-week series of blogs focused on the ABCs of Healthy Kids. Learn more at www.snohd.org/healthykids.
Top Three Take-Aways:
- Make time to safely dispose of potentially dangerous materials like unwanted medications or unused cleaning products.
- Become familiar with the spaces in your home that kids can access and what potential hazards need to be addressed – sharp items, low outlets, fall hazards, long cords, and more.
- Remember water and windows. Make sure windows are secure to prevent children falling out, and that any pools or other water features are not accessible to young children without supervision.
Spring is a popular time of year for clearing clutter. Tidying up can be important not only for your peace of mind, but for your household’s health and safety.
While we might think of it as a chance to organize and beautify our personal space, spring cleaning also is a good reminder to safely dispose of potentially dangerous items from your home. You may have unused medications you no longer need in your cabinet, or old cleaning products in the bathroom, or leftover paint tucked away in a corner of the garage. All of these could cause harm if a child got into them.
- Household hazardous waste such as used oil, antifreeze, gasoline, oil-based paints, solvents, and pesticides do NOT go into your regular garbage. These items can be disposed of at Snohomish County’s Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Station. A full list of what the station accepts is available online.
- Take unused, unwanted, or expired medications to a secure medicine return kiosk. Enter your ZIP Code on the MED-Project website to locate one near you. These kiosks may be in pharmacies, grocery stores or police stations. Do NOT throw unused meds in the garbage or flush them.
- If you don’t have a location nearby or can’t drive, you can call the hotline at 1-844-MED-PROJ or visit the mail-back page of the MED-Project website to request a pre-paid envelope to return your unwanted or expired medicine.
- Medications can be disposed of in their original packaging or in a sealed bag. Remove all personal identification, such as name and prescription number, from the packaging.
For any potentially hazardous items you do still use, make sure they are out of children’s reach and secure. Consider storing cleaning products on a high shelf or cupboard that has a child lock on it. Use a lockbox, locking bag, or locked cabinet for prescription medications.
Also, remember that any firearms you own should be stored securely where others, particularly children and teens, cannot access them. A variety of locking options are available, including lockboxes, gun safes, or a trigger or cable lock.
Know your space
Make a point of walking through each room in your house and taking inventory. If you have young children, invite them to walk through with you so you can see what is within their reach.
Some potential problems to consider include:
- Long window cords or other rope-like features that could tangle around a small child's neck
- Low outlets, which should have covers if they are within reach of a baby or toddler
- Pantries or shelves with heavy objects that kids may be tempted to pull on or climb up
- Sharp objects like knives, and hot surfaces like stoves
- Staircases that newly-walking children could tumble down
Remember that children are clever – it won’t take them long to figure out how to open the front or back door once they can reach the knobs, and soon after they are likely to figure out basic locking and unlocking. Consider additional slide locks or top latches that can help prevent young children from leaving the home unsupervised.
Make sure you have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your home that are working, and that batteries are replaced regularly. These are your first alert that something is wrong, and they may save your family's lives in the event of a fire or carbon monoxide accumulation in your home. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is colorless and odorless, so an alarm is crucial for detection. Explain to children what the alarms mean and what to do if they go off, including how to exit the house, where to meet, and who to call if you are not there or are unresponsive.
Windows and water
As we head into spring and summer, windows are more likely to be open to let in the breeze and water features are being prepped for hot days. Make sure they don’t become dangerous for children.
Window screens are great for keeping bugs out of your house. They aren’t strong enough to keep children in.
Unintentional falls are the No. 1 cause of non-fatal injuries for children, particularly preschool-age and younger, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. Most of those falls happen at home.
There are easy, inexpensive ways to prevent falls from windows:
- Install window guards and stops. A window guard is like a child safety gate for a window. A window stop is a small device that prevents windows from opening more than a few inches – wide enough for a breeze, but not wide enough for a toddler to fit through.
- Keep furniture such as cribs, chairs or toy chests away from windows. Little kids love to climb. Don’t make the window a climbing destination.
- Talk to your children about safety. Teach older kids not to leave windows open around younger siblings and to keep an eye out for their siblings’ safety. Teach younger children to ask an adult to go outside, rather than attempting to get out a door or window on their own.
- If your window can open from both the top and bottom, get in the habit of opening just the top. However, a window stop is still a good idea because as kids get older they can reach the top window, too.
- Close and lock windows when not in use. Even a partially open window can be tempting for children. If there’s no reason to have the window open, close and lock it. This is a good habit to get into for home safety, as well, so windows are locked when you leave your home.
Water safety overall is a bigger topic that includes lifejackets, swimming lessons, the buddy system, attentive chaperones, and more. When we talk about inspecting your home, though, the key water safety piece is making sure that children – particularly young children – are not able to access any water features without an adult present.
More children between ages 1 and 4 die from drowning than any other cause of death except birth defects, according to the CDC. Drowning is a risk any time a child has access to water, and often happens quickly and silently.
For those who have access to a shared private swimming pool, such as at an apartment or condominium complex, that pool needs to have safety features including a fence around it and locking gates. If you notice that the doors, gates or fences are damaged and can allow unsupervised access by young children, talk to the property management company or HOA about securing the barriers immediately and making the necessary repairs.
If you set up a smaller, personal backyard pool on hot days or have other water features like a water play table, sprinkler or small splash pad with a base where water can accumulate, be sure not to leave any water features full and unattended. Empty out tubs, buckets, containers and kids' pools after use. Remove the ladder from smaller above ground pools when they aren't in use, and take any toys out of the pool that a young child might try to retrieve.
And when young kids are playing in the water – no matter how seemingly safe or shallow the water is – always make sure an adult is supervising.
Take some time now to check off the “I” in the ABC’s for healthy kids. Have you taken time to inspect your nest?
Clean out unwanted or unused products that may be dangerous for children, know what they may be able to get into throughout your home, and always be sure windows and water features are secure to prevent falling or drowning.