Make home a safe place for baby to crawl, for child to grow

July 22, 2005|by LISA PREJEAN

New parents want everything to be just right for the arrival of their first born, with safety being a primary goal. Every precaution that can be taken will be, as long as the parents are aware of what they need to do.

To protect little ones, homes are made baby-proof, and, in some cases, adult-proof. (Have you ever tried to open a cupboard with a child-safety latch on it? I finally figured it out - about the time my youngest entered kindergarten.)

We buy the protective gadgets and we put questionable items on high shelves. Still, we wonder if we're doing enough. Are there things in our homes that could hurt our kids?

That question prompted Debra Holtzman to search for a book on childproofing a home. An environmental lawyer with a master's degree in occupational safety and health, Holtzman had two small children.


She was unable to find a book that would help her protect her kids, who are now teenagers. So, she decided to write one.

The result was, "The Safe Baby: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Safety."

In the book, Holtzman, the safety expert on Discovery Health Channel's "Make Room for Baby," provides practical, up-to-date advice on home safety for parents.

"There are things parents can do," Holtzman says. "And you don't have to make yourself crazy."

She recommends examining a room from a child's point of view. Crawl on your hands and knees so you can see potential hazards. Move furniture so you can pick up buttons, pills, safety pins or other small items that have been dropped between couch cushions. Remove hanging cords that could get wrapped around a child's neck. Make sure furniture is anchored to the wall. Children learn how to explore and climb at an early age.

Make adjustments as your child grows and develops new skills.

Here are some common household items that could be dangerous for children:

  • Art supplies - Some art supplies can contain toxic substances. Look for products with the ASTM D-4236 label. This means the product has been reviewed by a toxicologist. As I was talking with Holtzman, I looked at some of our art supplies. This label is sometimes indicated with the letters AP in a circle. It was fairly easy to find near the UPC symbol of some of the items we had on hand. Here's Holtzman's rule of thumb: If a product has cautionary instructions, or parental guidance is recommended, the product should not be used by children younger than 12.

  • Mouthwash - Some antiseptic mouthwashes can contain up to 27 percent alcohol. Choose an alcohol-free, antibacterial mouthwash and keep it out of reach.

  • Prescription medicine, over-the-counter medicine and vitamins - It's not enough to keep these on high shelves, Holtzman says. They should be kept in a locked cabinet. Be especially vigilant when visiting older relatives who take medication. One-third of all pediatric poisonings occur from grandparents' medications, Holtzman says.

  • Mothballs - These look like candy but are poisonous if eaten. Seizures can develop in less than an hour. Replace mothballs with cedar blocks or chips that can provide safe storage.

  • Balloons - Select Mylar, rather than latex, balloons. Mylar is a foil material and doesn't pop. As a result, there are no small pieces on which a child could choke. Latex balloons pop easily, creating small pieces that can get caught in the throat, covering airways. Holtzman particularly warns against red or pink latex balloons because they are the same color as the throat. She says no child younger than 8 should have a latex balloon. Deaths from choking are more common in the 3 to 8 age range than among those younger than 3 because the older children are more apt to blow up the balloons and the parents are more relaxed about their children having balloons at an older age.,/ul>

    For more information, go to Holtzman's Web site, She says she welcomes safety-related questions and will provide an e-mail response.

    Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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