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To Childproof Your Home

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sometimes it seems the only way to keep children safe from household accidents is constant vigilance. But there is an expanding market of locks, guards and other gadgets designed to reassure parents that sensible safeguards are in place. Michele Spahr, president of Safe Start Baby in Sterling, has good basic advice: "Set boundaries at an early age" -- even before babies start crawling -- she says, "so they learn to respect them." Other safe-smart suggestions:

First things first. Get down on hands and knees to see potential hazards -- a dropped penny, a sagging lamp cord -- from a baby's perspective.

Safeguards. Make sure staircase gates are installed securely. Avoid accordion-style gates with large openings. Any opening larger than 3 1/2 inches (check open windows, fences, deck railings) poses a risk; a child's body can slide through a space that size but his head cannot.

Choking risks. Give small toys the toilet paper test: If the toy can fit through the roll, it's a choking hazard. Plastic plugs used to cover electric outlets also can be a choking risk; spring-loaded slide plates are safer.

Plants. Some houseplants are poisonous. The National Capital Poison Center Web site, at http://www.poison.org/ , has a list of toxic plants.

Chemicals. "To a child, Pine Sol looks like apple juice," says Spahr. "So keep your cleaning products and chemicals locked up, preferably in a high cabinet." She recommends magnetic latches on cabinets, which are more long-term than plastic latches.

Kitchen. Think beyond cleaning products, sharp objects and plastic bags. "Some spices ingested in large quantities can be toxic, even salt," says Spahr. One to two teaspoons of salt ingested by a 25-pound child can cause seizures; more than 1 1/2 tablespoons can be lethal, according to the International Association for Child Safety. Because a child can drown in as little as two inches of water, be aware of pets' water bowls.

Furniture safety. TVs weigh less than they used to, so children can pull them down more easily. Secure a TV to any surface it is sitting on. Also secure bookcases and chests of drawers, which can topple over when children open the drawers and start climbing.

For more good safety information, visit http://www.iafcs.com/ .

Terri Sapienza

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