Dear Heloise:

Outdated, corded window coverings in children's bedrooms and play areas can be a strangulation risk to infants and toddlers. Please remind your readers to check their window coverings for potential safety hazards.

Often, children's cribs are placed near a window, where the child can reach the looped pull cords. Also, the cords running through the slats of certain window blinds (inner lift cords) could be hazardous.

In recent years, the window-covering industry has redesigned all corded products and developed cord-safety standards. In addition, cordless mini-blinds, pleated shades and vertical blinds are now widely available. If readers would take a few minutes to replace their window coverings that were made before 2001 with cordless products or update them, millions of homes would be safer for young children.

The Window Covering Safety Council will provide retrofit kits, including tassels, cord stops, tie-down devices and how-to instructions, free of charge to anyone who phones the organization at 800-506-4636 or visits www.windowcoverings.org.

October is Window Covering Safety Month, so please urge your readers to make window cords a priority when childproofing their homes.

Peter Rush

Window Covering Safety Council

New York

Readers, please take heed and check your window coverings now! This is especially important for grandparents who occasionally watch their grandchildren.

Dear Heloise:

Our next-door neighbor's cat often watches the birds that visit the feeders in my back yard, and I don't want it to get too close to the feeder and threaten these birds. I was told to throw orange peels around the base of the feeder to keep the cat at bay. So far, it has worked, and I'm also now eating more oranges!

Sally, via e-mail

Sally, according to the Wild Bird Centers of America, throwing citrus peels where you don't want cats to be does work -- they don't like the smell. For other helpful bird-feeding information, you can visit the WBCA Web site, www.birdfeeding.org.

Dear Heloise:

I am looking for the recipe for ice packs in which I believe rubbing alcohol was used with the water so it would not freeze solid.

Having a nephew who plays numerous sports, it sure would be handy.

Kem Stover, New Albany, Ohio

Yes, these homemade ice packs can come in very handy for sprains, strains and other sports injuries, and they are cheap!

To make, use a sturdy plastic bag that is freezer-safe and seals well. Add 3 parts water to 1 part 70 percent isopropyl alcohol (add some blue food coloring if you want to identify it).

Seal the bag and, for extra protection, slip it into another freezer-safe bag and seal -- double protection in case of leaks. Label the ice pack ("nonedible") and place flat in the freezer.

Use when frozen by first placing a towel on the area and then applying the ice pack -- an ice pack should not be placed directly on the skin.

Note: Isopropyl alcohol can also be found at 91 percent. This higher alcohol content will make a stronger solution with a lower freezing point.

This ice pack is reusable -- just wipe the outside with a clean cloth and put back in the freezer until next time.

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(c)2005, King Features Syndicate