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Your heart is thumping like a jackhammer. You’ve just sent your baby girl on her first ever bike trip around the block. What if she loses control and hits a tree? What if the neighbor’s dog attacks? What if, God forbid, a car backs out of a driveway and doesn’t see her?
The fact is, 100 kids die on bikes every year, so taking precautions is smart. But over 2,000 children under the age of 14 lose their lives inside their own homes from accidents ranging from choking and drowning, to poisoning, falling, and guns.1
How? Because plenty of us parents — who do everything we humanly can to protect our little ones — are simply unaware of the very real dangers lurking in our houses and apartments. For instance, 62 percent of otherwise responsible adults admitted in the latest National Parent Survey on Child Safety that they keep potentially lethal cleaning products on low shelves.2
There is some light at the end of this tunnel. The accidents that harm our kids at home are almost always preventable — as long as you keep your eyes open. Not sure what to look for? Our 11-point checklist will get you started.
FYI: Every 24 hours, accidental shootings maim or take the lives of eight children in the U.S. That’s one child every three hours.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says driveway accidents injure 50 kids every week3. And some of them won’t make it. Nearly all of those accidents are “backovers,” where a vehicle rolls over a child while reversing.
While it may be impossible to imagine this kind of tragedy happening to us, it does happen, and not because we parents are guilty of negligence. We’re just parents. We have a thousand things on our minds while we’re inside our cars: work, dinner, weekend plans. When our minds are a jumble of tasks, our kids’ safety plays second fiddle.
Our advice: Before you start the car, make eye contact with all your kids. Never step on the gas just because you thought you heard the back door shut.
CO is a silent, odorless, invisible predator that puts 200,000 kids in the hospital every year and takes the lives of nearly 200 while they sleep.
Carbon monoxide is also a natural byproduct of pretty much any appliance in our homes that burns fuel: gas heaters, grills, cars, even clothes dryers. If any one of those devices malfunctions and unburnt gas seeps out, we have a potentially lethal problem for our families.
Sounds gruesome, I know. But there’s actually an easy fix for this “silent killer.”
Our advice: When you’re considering your next home security system, look for a brand with environmental sensors, i.e. CO, smoke, and water leak detectors. You can also buy all of these products separately.
Did You Know: Most households have smoke alarms, but only 56 percent of parents interviewed by Safe Kids Worldwide in 2015 reported using CO sensors.
If you’ve got window blinds that you installed before 2017 — when cords were banned — you might be living with a lurking danger that risked the lives of 16,000 kids between 1990 and 2015. 4
If you think about it for even a second, banning strings on shades makes perfect sense. For kids under 6, a cord at arm’s reach is an invitation to play. But hanging cords are no game. Kids entangled in string can strangle in minutes, and because they can’t breathe, they can’t cry for help.
Our advice: If you did your windows before 2017, and you’ve got dangling strings on your blinds, it’s time to cut the cords.
When my father was a kid, he remembers the dentist giving him gobs of mercury to play with in the waiting room.
We may think we’ve moved way past that madness, and for the most part we have. But if you live in, rent, or visit a home built before 1978, there could be lead in your walls. And it doesn’t take much lead to hurt kids. Even tiny amounts of lead-based paint ingested over time can cause irreversible cognitive damage to little ones.5
Have you repainted your old walls with non-toxic, water-based paint? Good move. But it might not be enough. If the top layers of paint start to peel, the older, lead-based paint below can flake off.
Our advice: If you have any doubt at all about your walls, buy a lead test kit. If you detect lead, don’t DIY it. Hire a professional contractor to remove it. (Just talk to your home insurance provider first. They may have recommendations on how to move forward.)
Child Safety Fact: Over 50 kids age 10 and under die from accidental poisoning inside U.S. homes every year.
Storm drains are probably the last thing on your mind when the rain is coming down hard. But a flash flood can turn your storm sewer into a deadly hazard in literally the blink of an eye.
If a child is small enough to fit through the drain opening, a torrent of rain water can carry them away.
Our advice: If there’s a whiff of a flash flood, keep the kids away from the street gutters. If you’ve got a drainage ditch nearby — which can be really tempting for kids — that’s a double no-go when it’s raining cats and dogs.
It’s been a common trend in U.S. homes since the pandemic hit. You ditch the gym membership for a home gym setup. Think treadmill. Bicycle. Jump rope. Weights.
You can see where this is going, but the statistics are still staggering. Home exercise equipment maims 12,000 children yearly.6(2,000 of these accidents happen on treadmills alone.) And it’s not just naughty toddlers who end up in the ER. Most of those stats pertain to kids under the age of 10 trying to stay fit like Mom and Dad.
What can you do if you don’t want to give up the home treadmill?
Our advice: Lock (or cordon off) the exercise room when you’re not inside. Never leave a jump rope or free weights lying around. If you’ve got older kids, show them how to use the equipment properly.
FYI: For children aged 1-4, drowning (in bathtubs and swimming pools) is the number one cause of preventable death in the home.
Put yourself inside the head of your curious 2-year-old. You enter a room and scan for things to play with. Your eyes, calibrated for maximum mischief, settle on a purse.
It’s not a plastic shopping bag, dry cleaning bag, or computer bag. What could go wrong?
Here’s a very short list of what’s inside your average purse: small devices with batteries and charging cables, loose change, tubes of lipstick, medications, and keys. Any one of those items, perfectly harmless by itself, could end up lodged in a child’s throat.
Our advice: Are your children under the age of 7? Don’t leave any bags lying around. (That includes garbage bags, which some kids love to tumble around inside.)
Balloons are great. They’re cheap and kids can play with them for hours. Balloons are also the No. 1 cause of death by suffocation for children, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).7
Kids can swallow balloons while trying to blow them up. Some children just like to chew on them. One quick intake of breath is all it takes for fun to turn into a nightmare situation.
And you don’t need a whole balloon to send your little one to the hospital. A torn piece of balloon is also a serious suffocation hazard.
Our advice: Never let your kids play with balloons alone, especially if they’re under 6.
Did You Know: Suffocation is the leading cause of childhood death in the home, killing 1,200 youngsters yearly.
“If I wasn’t there watching him, no one would have known he was in there.”
That was one lucky New Zealand father who saw his son get sucked beneath a bounce house.
Seeing our kids vanish beneath a 400-pound blow-up toy isn’t the only risk we parents run into with bounce houses. Bounce houses, aka moon bounces or bounce castles, can also fly away in heavy winds, deflate suddenly crushing children inside, or ensnare kids’ limbs and crack bones in their webbing.
Our advice: Don’t add a bounce house to your next party list. If you’re at a friend’s birthday party, watch your little ones while they’re bouncing. That will reduce serious accidents (14,000 yearly at last count) to about nil.
My kids love their vitamins. They’re purple, shaped like bears, and they taste great. Which is why I keep them on a high shelf.
It’s true, crunching one or two extra vitamins every so often probably isn’t the end of the world. But some kids — particularly younger kids — will ingest a half bottle easily. And that can be a serious problem.
In 2020 alone, there were 45,000 vitamin poisonings among kids ages 6 and under.8Ingesting too much iron can be particularly toxic.
Our advice: Put all your vitamins on a high shelf. Tamper-proof caps aren’t enough to keep kids with a serious sweet tooth away from them.
Child Safety Tip: Older kids may appear to give all the signals of a rational adult when they’re asking for permission. But the fact is, a child’s judgment isn’t fully formed until they’re in their mid-20s.
Yes, that’s us, Mom and Dad.
We spend years childproofing our homes to the last detail. We put covers on all the electrical outlets, child locks on the windows, and corner guards on the tables. Some of us are even familiar with hidden household dangers like vitamins, balloons, and vehicle backovers. We play it safe so our kids can grow up accident-free.
But the reality is, the older our kids get, the more relaxed we get. We might let our 10-year-old ride in the front seat with the adults, for instance, or say yes to a 13-year-old who wants to go for a quick dip in the pool unsupervised.
The problem with this philosophy is that a 13-year-old kid is still a kid. The risk of getting hurt may be less as they age, but it doesn’t go away. And new dangers emerge. Identity theft is a huge problem for teens, for example.
I’m not suggesting you wrap your boys and girls in a parental bubble. Being too worried can destroy a child’s self-confidence.
But kids are kids until they leave the nest. While we may go easier on teens and preteens when it comes to certain household risks like plastic bags and balloons, it could be a costly mistake to let our guard down completely.
|Type of Injury||Number of Deaths Per Year|
|Blows (by objects or falling people)||57|
Source: Safe Kids Worldwide Report to the Nation 2015
Standford Children's Health. (2022). Accident Statistics.
Safekids. (2015, Feb). Protecting Children in Your Home.
KidsandCars.org. (2014). Backover Fact Sheet.
npr. (2017, Dec 11). Window Blind Cords Still Pose A Deadly Risk To Children.
ScienceDaily. (2007, Nov 27). Even Very Low Levels Of Lead Cause Brain Damage In Children.
Nationwide Children's. (2022). Home Exercise Equipment.
CPSC. (2012 Jan). CPSC Warns Consumers of Suffocation Danger Associated with Children's Balloons.
Poison Control. (2020). Poison Statistics.