Protect the ones you love from the day they’re born

By: Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published October 3, 2018

 Child safety basics include secure baby gates and, pictured, cabinet latches.

Child safety basics include secure baby gates and, pictured, cabinet latches.

Shutterstock image

METRO DETROIT — Blankets and sleepers. 

Bottles and diapers. 

Activity mats, car seats and strollers.

It may seem like the list of must-haves for baby is already long, but local health experts say there’s something that shouldn’t be neglected when parents bring home a baby: safety.

Erica Surman, a registered nurse and the pediatric trauma program manager for Beaumont Children’s, said that babies start moving all of a sudden, unexpectedly, so parents should be ready.

“You should start thinking about safety, baby-proofing, right away,” she said. 

Parents and caregivers should take a three-pronged approach to safety, she said. 

In addition to protecting children with safety features and making sure a home is safe, “You want to supervise your child, but kids are little Houdinis. You want to reinforce verbally with them ... because everywhere you go is not going to be baby-proofed,” Surman said. “You want to say, ‘No, we don’t touch that outlet because you’ll get hurt.’”

Child safety should start with the basics, such as making sure that secure baby gates are in place to protect crawling and toddling children from stairs; covering electrical outlets; and installing cabinet latches. Safety latches for toilets and washing machines, plus knob covers to keep children out of certain rooms or from turning the knobs on the stove, are also good to have, she said.

In the laundry room, Surman said they advise against using laundry pods if there is a small child in the house, because the pods can look like colorful candy, but if parents do want to use the concentrated detergent pods, they should keep them in their original packaging and out of the reach of children. Choose the least colorful brand of detergent pod possible, and don’t put them in a Pinterest-worthy candy jar for a cute display, she said. 

Keeping medicines, detergents and cleaners out of sight of small children is the best way to prevent them from trying to get them, said Denise Kolakowski, an educator and poison information provider for the Michigan Regional Poison Control Center. Items like those should be locked behind a door, because bright colors could make small children think the cleaners are candy.

“Children will climb to the highest of shelves, where you would never think they would go,” said Kolakowski. 

The same is true for pills, pill bottles and pill planners.

“This is something that looks like a toy to them, and when they open it up and see what’s inside, they also look like candy to them,” she said of pill planners. “Pill bottles and loose pills should never be left on tables. It takes a matter of seconds. There are some medications that are extremely dangerous, even if they just get one of them.”

Calling the National Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222 will route the caller to the nearest regional center.

“We can walk you through what you need to do,” if a child has ingested a medicine, detergent or other poison, or if someone suspects they have, Kolakowski said.

Surman said those supervising small children should be aware of electronics or toys that contain button batteries. Although toys, by law, must have button batteries secured in a compartment with screws, items that children sometimes use as toys — like remote controls — aren’t always as secure.

“If you suspect your child had a button battery ingestion, you need to get to a hospital immediately,” she said, because the tiny batteries can create a chemical reaction that can cause burning inside the child, even after the battery is removed.

Those who have a pool in their yard should make sure it is protected by a gate, and that pool alarms and door alarms are installed to alert an adult that a child is trying to get out of the house or into the pool.

Parents should also adjust a home’s hot water tank to no more than 120 degrees.

There are plenty of products available to help parents with childproofing a home.

“We have an entire safety aisle for stuff to make your home more safe,” said Roland Russell, store manager at Menards, 32501 Van Dyke Ave. in Warren.

A high-powered magnetic locking system can be unlocked only with a remote control to keep children out of cupboards with dangerous items, he said. To protect fingers from getting pinched in the hinge side of a closing door, there are clear plastic finger guards that can be installed on door hinges that will prevent pinching while still allowing the door to close.

Anti-tip kits can be used to keep TVs, bookshelves, dressers or other heavy furniture from falling on a child who tries to climb them. 

“It anchors into the wall with a steel cable, and it holds it from tipping backward,” Russell said. “All this stuff is really inexpensive. We have so many different things nowadays.”

Cushioned corner protectors will protect a child’s head from a hard granite countertop or fireplace, and appliance latches are also good products to get, he said. Some kits come with nearly everything one would need to baby-proof an entire home, or parents can buy items individually, he said.

Windows are potential dangers for children, Surman said. Shorten the cord on blinds and install a window guard if second-story windows are close enough to the floor for children to push out a screen.

“Once your kid is starting to walk around, you want to get on their eye level and see what are the things that you see on their eye level that you may have missed,” she said. 

“It is scary and intimidating, but if you know what to look for, you can empower yourself. If you only protect them and you don’t educate them and you don’t supervise them, they’re going to be at risk at day care, at Grandma’s house.”