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Be a safety-savvy grandparent

Follow safety rules to childproof your home and keep grandkids safe.

When you're a grandparent, the perks are precious. You get to indulge your grandkids and lavish them with love. You get to share their magic moments and go gaga over their goo-goos.

For these reasons and more, grandparents are invaluable caregivers. But there's one more important thing that all grandparents need to do for grandchildren—make sure the kids have a safe home to come and visit.

Practicing "safety first" might sound like a cinch. After all, if you're a grandparent, you know a thing or two about child rearing.

But safety rules today are different and stricter than they used to be. And the dangers of unsafe child care are too grave to ignore.

Accidental injuries: A major problem

Preventable injury is the leading cause of death for children in the U.S., according to Safe Kids Worldwide.

But what precautions should you take? Safety groups offer these basic rules:

Buckle up grandkids every time they're in the car. Put children in age-appropriate car seats or booster seats. Install and use the seats properly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website provides safety seat ratings, usage guides and handy information.

Keep children in the backseat. It's the safest place to be if there's a crash. And front seats may have air bags, which can hurt youngsters.

Use child-resistant containers for medications and vitamins. If old-style childproof packaging requires too much pushing and turning, ask pharmacists for newer models. These rely on know-how rather than strength.

Never leave grandchildren alone near water, whether it's in buckets, bathtubs or even toilets. Young children can drown in as little as 1 inch of water, according to Safe Kids. Children of all ages need supervision at swimming pools, lakes and all open water.

Post poison control center and emergency numbers near the telephone. The national toll-free number for poison centers is 800.222.1222.

Install and maintain carbon monoxide (CO) and smoke alarms. Put smoke alarms on every level of your home and in every bedroom. Install a CO alarm in hallways near every sleeping area.

Set your water heater temperature to 120 degrees or lower to avoid tap water scalding.

Make sure your home is free of lead, a serious childhood health threat. Visit the National Lead Information Center website for comprehensive information about lead poisoning prevention.

Don't smoke. Children who breathe secondhand smoke from cigarettes, cigars and pipes are more likely to have asthma flare-ups and to develop pneumonia and other lung diseases, according to the American Lung Association.

Have children wear safety gear, such as helmets, when they play sports or ride bikes or scooters.

Lock up dangerous items. Children love to explore and experiment. So it's important to keep the following items locked up, out of reach and out of sight:

  • Medications, vitamins, chemicals, household products, and sharp tools or objects.
  • Matches, lighters and flammable items.
  • Firearms (store them unloaded).
  • Ammunition (store it separately from firearms).

It's also wise to avoid antiques or old products, such as cribs, that might be unsafe. Many old toys and items predate federal safety standards and do not pass muster. For information on these and other issues, call the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission toll-free hotline at 800.638.2772.

For specific age-groups, these extra safety rules apply:

Infants:

  • Need to sleep on their backs on firm, flat mattresses—without pillows, stuffed animals or soft bedding. This reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Should not have toys with small parts, a choking hazard.
  • Cannot be left alone on changing tables or other furniture—they can roll off.
  • Need constant supervision in bath seats. Check bath water with a wrist to make sure it's not too hot.

  Toddlers:

  • Need window blind and curtain cord loops cut and kept out of reach to prevent strangling accidents. The Window Covering Safety Council offers information about window cord safety online at windowcoverings.org.
  • Need safety gates at stairways and safety plugs in electrical outlets. They also need safety guards on windows and balconies.
  • Need safe, age-appropriate toys.
  • Should not be fed small, round foods that they could choke on, such as grapes, hard candies or popcorn.
  • Can also choke on coins, buttons, marbles and other small items. Keep them out of sight and reach.
One step at a time

The lists of safety rules might sound daunting, but remember, you don't need to put everything in place at once. Kids need different safety measures at different ages. And step by step, practicing safety first will become second nature—just like loving your grandkids.

Reviewed 4/9/2022

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