The 15 Biggest Safety Mistakes

Bedding, Firemen, and Coffee

Using Soft Bedding

For children younger than 1, suffocation is the number one cause of unintentional injury-related death. Sixty percent of these cases occur in baby's sleeping environment: An infant can wedge his face into soft, fluffy pillows, quilts, comforters, and stuffed animals that easily cover his nose and mouth.

What to do: "Have your child sleep in the barest environment possible," advises Mickalide. Use just one light blanket over him, and tuck the bottom of it under the end of the mattress to create a pocket. The blanket should only reach to the middle of his chest. This way it can't be pulled over his head. On chilly nights, dress baby in a warmer sleeper rather than piling on more bedding. And use that adorable crib comforter as a decorative wall hanging.

Forgetting to Introduce Your Child to a Fireman

Imagine how frightening a fire must be to a child. It's dark, and the smoke is like nothing he's ever seen or smelled before. Adding to his fear and confusion are the piercing smoke alarms and sirens of rescue vehicles. Then a stranger shows up looking like a space alien, wearing heavy bunker gear and a helmet and carrying an ax. Tragically, many child fire deaths occur because children run and hide from firefighters -- they are found dead in closets and under beds, says Mickalide.

What to do: Find a firefighter for your child to meet. Most community fire companies sponsor an open house at least once a year where firefighters stage safety demonstrations and allow kids to explore and try on their gear. (Your local fire department may also schedule demonstrations during Fire Prevention Week, usually the first or second week of October.)

Let the kids help you test the smoke alarms each month so they get used to hearing what they sound like. Don't just plan and talk about an escape route; if your kids are old enough, practice it, says Mickalide. Rehearse crawling through smoke, yelling "I'm over here," and getting to your outside meeting place.

Drinking Coffee While Holding the Baby

You're desperate for a cup of joe but reluctant to put down the baby in case she wakes up. However, you could be setting yourself up for an accident. Scalds from hot liquids are the most common type of burns for young children, whose thinner skin burns more easily than an adult's. "Even coffee that's not too hot to drink can really scald a child," says Mickalide.

What to do: Put down the baby while you drink your coffee. Be just as careful on the go, even with a lid on the cup. "If you were carrying baby and take-out coffee and you were to trip, your natural tendency would be to squeeze that paper cup," says Mickalide. At home, move your coffeemaker far back on the counter, wind up the cord, and keep your mug out of reach.

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