In an Instant
Monica Montalti of North Bellmore, New York, had considered her house well childproofed since her children, now 6 and 3, were babies. "We had plugs in all the outlets and latches on the entertainment center," she says. "But because my older son never touched anything, I guess I let my guard down with my younger one." The day of reckoning: Montalti frantically dialing Poison Control after finding her 3-year-old, Kevin, gagging, with Orange Oil Pledge all over his shirt. The near-empty bottle lay next to him. Luckily, Kevin had just saturated a dish towel with the polish to help "clean" and probably didn't consume much of the product. Still, the incident was enough to make Montalti reexamine her home for potential dangers.
Leaving household cleaners within reach is just one of the safety mistakes parents make every day. As a rule, we think we're pretty safety-conscious: We buckle our kids into car seats and install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. But we could do better. Unintentional injury remains the leading cause of death among children. In 2000, more than 120,000 were permanently disabled from injuries, and 5,600 died. Children younger than 5 account for nearly half of such fatalities.
"Parents think if we just watch our kids, they'll be okay," says Gary Smith, MD, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "But accidents, by definition, occur quickly and without warning. All it takes is that one second when a hot cup of coffee is within reach or a door is left open."
Since mistakes are often our best teachers, here are some hazardous habits you might be guilty of -- and what you can do to correct things.