Home Improvements to Protect Children

Parents understandably consider their home a safe haven for children. But the home actually plays host to many childhood injuries over the course of a typical year. Each year, nearly 20,000 people die and 21 million medical visits result from home accidents in the United States, says the U.S. Home Safety Council. The majority of these injuries occur to children and the elderly.

When improving your home this season, take steps to decrease the likelihood of accidents by targeting the areas where injuries are most likely to occur.

Slamming doors and windows: Amputations to fingers as a result of slammed doors and windows are a leading emergency room injury. This painful injury is easily remedied by putting foam or plastic guards on windows and doors so they can't fully crush fingers if they are accidentally slammed. Also, high-placed latches on windows or doors that are off-limits can reduce the chance for injury.

Stairs: Statistics indicate that more people end up in U.S. emergency rooms because of fall-related injuries than from any other cause. Falls down stairs are a leading cause of injury. Adequate lighting around staircases can illuminate open stairwells. Non-slip treads on stairs can help prevent falls, as can replacing carpeting on stairs that is bunching or separating from the underfloor. Be sure handrails are sturdy so they can be used. A pressure-mounted gate at the top of stairs can block the stairs to prevent falls if a child is wandering around at night to visit the bathroom or another instance.

Window safety: Falls out of open windows are another startling statistic, with thousands of young children being susceptible to injury every year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In March 1991, singer Eric Clapton lost his son Conor when the 3-year-old boy fell through an open window on the 53rd floor of a New York City high rise apartment. According to DelSanto, the janitor had opened a huge panel of glass that wasn't meant to be opened when the boy, who was playing hide-and-seek, ran straight through. Window guards that cover the open window with grating or metal bars, or locks, which prevent the window from opening past a certain height, can help prevent window injuries. It's also important to keep furniture away from easily opened windows.

Electrocution: Children are curious by nature, and open outlets or wires and plugs will certainly attract their attention. Consider hiding wires beneath plastic covers for this purpose. Upgrade wiring if the house is old and if there are frayed wires or faulty outlets or switches. Use outlet covers on all exposed electrical outlets.

Glass: The increased use of architectural glass has led to greater instances of glass-related injuries, such as cuts and deep lacerations. Be sure to always use shatter-proof glass. Glass tables with pointy edges should be avoided or covered until children are older.

Ensure children are safe in and around the home. Make safety a priority whenever updating a home improvement to-do list.

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