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Child Safety Tips

Did you know that more American children die from unintentional inuries each year than from all childhood diseases combined?

Use this safety checklist to help make your home safe for the smallest and most vulnerable members of your family. Then be sure you know the phone numbers of your family physician, your local hospital, and your poison control center. Post them by your telephone so they'll be handy in the event of an incident.

Household Dangers

1. Are your dangerous household items stored safely? Medicines, toxic bleaches, oven and drain cleaners, paint solvents, polishes, and waxes should all be locked away in a secure place, out of your child's sight and reach. Don't keep them under a sink or in plain view in your garage or carport.

2. Do you keep all plastic wrapping materials, such as dry-cleaning bags, produce bags and trash bags, away from children? Children playing with plastic wrappings run the risk of suffocation.

3. Never use thin plastic materials to cover mattresses or pillows; protecting these items is not worth the dangers to your child.

4. Are unused receptacle outlets covered with safety caps? Do you disconnect electrical rollers and hair dryers when they're not in use? Children have been electrocuted when hair dryers that were left plugged in fell into bathroom sinks or tubs. Make sure your bathroom outlets have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCs), these devices turn off electricity if an appliance falls in water.

5. Is furniture placed away from high windows so that children won't climb onto a window seat or sill? Don't depend on window screens to keep your child from falling out. Screens are designed to keep bugs out, not to keep children in.

6. Do you keep the tops of stairways blocked so your baby or toddler can't fall? Also, never leave a small child unattended around outdoor deck stairs, concrete steps, or a swimming pool.

Nursery Equipment

1. Are your nursery furnishings, whether new or used, stable and sturdily constructed? Check for exposed screws, bolts, or fasteners with sharp edges or points. Avoid scissor like mechanisms which could crush fingers, and cutout designs that might entrap a child's head.

2. Does and stroller have safety straps? Look for straps that are easy to fasten and unfasten so you'll be sure to use them properly each time.

3. Do you commonly leave a side down on your mesh playpen or portable crib? This can pose a serious hazard to newborns and infants, because the mesh forms a loose pocket into which an infant can roll and suffocate.

4. Are there curtains or Venetian blind cords hanging within your baby's reach? Don't hang objects with strings or elastics (toys or laundry bags, for example) around cribs or playpens where your child might become entangled and choke to death.

5. If you have a baby walker, do you use it only on smooth surfaces? Edges of carpets, throw rugs, or raised thresholds can cause a walker to tip over. Remove throw rugs when a walker is in use, and make sure stairways are blocked.

Toys, Toy Chests, and Labeling

Are you sure that your child's toys have not broken or come apart at the seams, exposing small removable parts or pellets that might become lodged in a child's windpipe, ears, or nose? Check toys for small components that might be swallowed or inhaled. Even such common items as coins, pins, buttons, or small batteries can choke a child.

When choosing toys, do you look for labels that give age recommendations? Some toys or games which are safe for older children may contain parts that could be hazardous in a younger child's hands.

Have you removed any free-falling lids from your child's toy trunk or other storage container? A lid can drop on a child's head or neck, and some children have been killed or seriously injured. Look for a chest with supports to hold the lid open in any position, or choose one with sliding panels or a light, removable lid.

More About Toy Safety

It's so much fun to give toys to children -- to see the light in their eyes when they unwrap that special toy they've been longing for, or to watch them delight in unexpected treats. But every year, thousands of children are hurt by their own toys. Avoid the chance that delight might turn to disaster: use this safety checklist to help you select and maintain appropriate toys for the children in your life.

When buying toys...

Choose toys with care. Keep in mind the child's age, interests and skill level.

Look for quality design and construction in toys for children of any age.

Read labels. Look for and heed age recommendations, such as "Not recommended for children under three." Look for other safety labels, such as "Flame retardant/Flame resistant" on fabric products and "Washable/Hygienic materials" on stuffed toys and dolls.

Plastic wrappings on toys should be discarded as soon as the toy is opened, before the wrappings become potentially deadly playthings.

Make sure that all instructions for assembly and use are clear -- to you, and when appropriate, to the child.

Sharp Edges

New toys intended for children under eight years of age should, by regulation, be free of sharp glass and metal edges. With use, however, older toys may break, creating cutting edges.

Cords and Strings

Toys with long strings and cords may be dangerous to infants and very young children. Cords can become wrapped around an infant's neck, causing strangulation.

Never hang toys with long strings, cords, loops, or ribbons in cribs or playpens where children may become entangled.

Remove crib gyms from the crib once the child can pull up on hands and knees; some children have strangled when they fell on crib gyms stretched across the crib.

Loud Noises

Cap guns and other noisemaking guns can produce sounds that might damage hearing. Law requires the following label on boxes of caps producing noise above a certain level: "WARNING--Do not fire closer to the ear than one foot. Do not use indoors."

Infant Toys

Toys for babies, such as rattles, squeeze toys, and teething toys, should be too large to go down an infant's throat far enough to become lodged there.

Sharp Points

Broken toys may have dangerous points or prongs. Stuffed toys may have wires inside, which could cut or stab if exposed. A Consumer Product Safety Commission regulation prohibits sharp points in new toys and other articles intended for children under eight years of age.

Propelled Objects

Projectiles--guided missiles and other flying toys--can be turned into weapons that injure eyes in particular. Children should never be permitted to play with adult lawn darts or other hobby or sporting equipment that has sharp points.

Arrows or darts used by children should have soft cork tips, rubber suction cups, or other protective tips intended to prevent injury. Check to be sure the tips are secure. Avoid those dart guns or other toys which might be capable of shooting articles not intended for use in the toy, such as pencils or nails.

Small Parts

Sometimes toys break into parts small enough to become lodged in a child's windpipe, ears, or nose. The law bans small parts in new toys intended for children under three. This includes removable small eyes and noses on stuffed toys and dolls, and removable squeakers on squeeze toys.

Electric Toys

Electric toys can shock or burn if they are improperly constructed, incorrectly wired, or abused.

Electric toys must meet mandatory requirements for maximum surface temperatures, electrical construction, and prominent warning labels.

Toys with heating elements are recommended only for children more than eight years old.

Children should be taught how to use electric toys properly, and adult supervision is advisable.

All Toys Are Not For All Kids

Keep toys designed for older children out of the hands of little ones. Follow labels that give age recommendations--some toys are recommended for older children not because little ones won't understand them, but because they might not handle them safely. Teach older children to keep their toys away from younger brothers and sisters. If they can learn to do this nicely, they will develop a sense of responsibility and protection toward their younger siblings.

Even a toy as simple as a balloon, when uninflated or broken, can choke or suffocate a young child. More children have suffocated on uninflated and broken balloons than on any other type of toy.

When maintaining toys...

Check all toys periodically for breakage and potential hazards. A damaged or dangerous toy should be immediately repaired or thrown away.

On wooden toys, sand any edges that have become sharp or surfaces that have splintered. When repainting toys and toy boxes, avoid using leftover paint unless it was purchased recently. Older paints may contain more lead than new paint, which is regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Examine all outdoor toys regularly for rust or weakened parts that could be hazardous.

When storing toys...

Teach children to put their toys away safely on reachable shelves or in a toy chest. This will prevent trips and falls.

Toy boxes, too, should be checked for safety. Use a toy chest with a lid that will stay open in any position to which it is raised, and will not fall on a child unexpectedly. For added safety, make sure there are ventilation holes for air. Watch for sharp edges that could cut and hinges that might pinch or squeeze.

See that toys used outdoors are stored after play, because rain and dew can rust or damage a variety of toys, creating hazards.

Careful toy selection and proper supervision of children at play is still the best way to protect children from toy-related injuries. And it's fun!

Copyright Lowes' Home Safety Council. Please exercise reasonable caution, follow applicable codes and regulations, and consult with a professional if in doubt about any procedures. Please read Lowes' terms of use. Reprinted with permission from Lowes. The Home Safety Council is a not-for-profit organization dedicated solely to the prevention of and education about home injuries.

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