Child Safety

An accident or injury can occur in any part of your home. Some safety hazards are obvious, but others are not so easily identified. Every day, 39,000 children get hurt seriously enough to seek medical attention in the United States, according to preventinjury.org. Many of these injuries are caused by burns, falls, drowning, poisoning and motor vehicle crashes. So, how can you keep your child safe? Kisha Price, health educator at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Safety Center, tackles the questions that may be on many parents’ minds.

1. What are some of the “easy” low-cost solutions parents or caregivers can do to “childproof” their home?

First, let me just clarify that there is no such thing as “child proof.”  We think of safety products as tools that assist parents to keep their children safe. Nothing replaces close supervision by adults of young children. Having said that, there are some important things that parents can do to make their home safer, which include:  

  1. Have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on all levels and outside sleeping areas
  2. Lock away poisons
  3. Cover unused outlets with outlet covers
  4. Install appropriate stair gates at the top and/or bottom of the stairs.

Without knowing the age and development of the child or the style of the home the child lives in, these recommendations could very easily change. I always recommend that a parent gets customized advice from an expert.

2. What is the best safety tip you can give a parent or caregiver about car seat safety?

The best safety tip is to visit a certified child passenger safety technician for personalized education and professional installation of your child’s safety seat. Also, know the Maryland child passenger safety law—all children less than 8-years-old should ride in a child safety seat, unless the child is 4 feet 9 inches or taller. I have installed more than 1,000 car seats for families and only a handful of these had been previously installed correctly.

Here are some quick tips:

  1. Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible until they have reached the weight and height limits of their rear-facing convertible seat (normally well after two years of age)
  2. Keep your child in a five-point harness as long as possible once they have turned forward
  3. Keep your child in a booster seat as long as possible within the weight and height limits Don’t forget to always buckle up!  

3. Now that we are entering the colder months, are there any tips you can give to parents or caregivers on how to protect their children during these particular seasons?

With fall approaching and winter following, parents and caregivers want to keep children bundled and warm, however, wearing too many layers or a puffy winter coat or snowsuit in a car seat can be dangerous. A child should be as close as possible to the child safety seat and to the five-point harness. In the event of a sudden stop or crash, the harness is grabbing material while the child is still moving. A child may slip out from between the straps and the seat itself. A thin fleece or flannel jacket is sufficient, even on the coldest days.

 Another tip during colder months when families tend to stay inside and use the stove more often for cooking, is to use the back burners. Adults should establish a ‘safety zone’ in the kitchen. A safety zone is a three foot area around the stove that is kid-free to prevent burns from steam, flames and hot liquid spills.

4. Can you share some “cyber-safety” tips?

Parents know their own children best and have to establish what is appropriate for their child and their family. I would remind parents that supervision is key. Keep your computer and the television within your view at all times and stay engaged in what your child is reading or watching. Finally, parents can talk with their internet or cable providers to see what is available to block inappropriate programs and limit internet access.

 5. Can you touch on some common habits that parents or caregivers might have that can be harmful to children?  

I encourage families to take the time to push their coffee cup to the back of the counter so their young child can’t reach it and to close the door to the basement so the toddler can’t access the stairs.  Parents are so busy, but many of our safety recommendations can be done in a short period of time—whether it’s calling the fire department to install free smoke alarms in your home or testing the temperature of your hot water to prevent scald burns. I also try to stress the positive aspects of habits too—that children watch and mimic their parents, so parents should be good safety role models.

6. Can you tell us more about the services offered through the Johns Hopkins Children’s Safety Center?

The Children’s Safety Center is located on the main Arcade Level of the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center. Car seat services are available by appointment. For more information, caregivers can call (410) 614-5587 or email the health educator at JHSafety@jhsph.edu to ask questions or make an appointment. Any of us can answer your questions about sleep safety, poison storage, falls, burns, smoke and CO alarms, pedestrian and vehicle safety, and a host of other childhood injury concerns. Anyone can visit the Children’s Safety Center including patients, Johns Hopkins employees and members of the community.

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Anita September 20, 2013 at 2:17 pm

have a clear space that is theirs, with the safe toys, nothing that can fall if they pull on it. Have their favorite books, toys, etc ...a blocked off space this is.

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Bonnie C September 18, 2013 at 9:18 am

One very important tip not seen here is to ensure your child has adequate supervision. Too many children are allowed to wander away from parents or other caregivers, frequently with disastrous results. While I can't claim that my children (when they were young) were ALWAYS within eye-sight, they generally were never very far away from me. And, since this was back in the day when we put our babies on their stomachs to sleep, and a lot of us did NOT have the baby monitors so prevalent today, checking on the sleeping baby a couple of times was crucial. I don't understand how some parents can put their child to bed, close the door, and go about their business without stopping from time to time to see if the child is still sleeping. (My daughter had serious reflux issues so I checked her at least twice each night, to make sure she wasn't choking. She slept in the next room but still I was awakened each time she turned over in her bed, or if her breathing pattern changed.) Of course, there are a lot of "modern" parenting methods whose "wisdom" I question.

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