Water Heater, Baby Walker, and Cooking Meats
Setting the Water Heater Too High
Hot tap water accounts for about a quarter of all scald burns but causes more deaths and hospitalizations than other hot liquids, because these injuries tend to be more severe and cover a larger portion of the body. Manipulating the faucet to get water the right temperature for hand washing, or to fill Barbie's pool, is a skill young children simply don't have yet. And there's no need for tap water to be so hot anyway. Most people take a bath at 96-98 degrees.
What to do: Set your water heater so that the temperature is no hotter than 120 degrees. If your water heater doesn't have numbers, set it somewhere between the medium and low settings. Also ask a plumber to check it. If you're unable to control the setting, install anti-scald faucets, which turn off the flow when the water gets too hot.
Using a Baby Walker
Do you really want your child to have the ability to slide here and there at will, banging into furniture and pulling down plants and electronics? In 2001, 6,400 babies were injured badly enough to go to the hospital as a result of using a walker, and each year two children die. Of those who sustained injuries, three-quarters fell down stairs. Eighty percent were supervised at the time of the incident, and more than half had caregivers in the same room. "Kids can scoot four feet per second in a walker," says Dr. Smith. "Even a triathlete parent can't sprint across a room to prevent a fall that one time a safety gate is left open."
What to do: Trade your walker for a stationary entertainment center. Babies like them just as much, and you'll gain a few hands-free moments. It's especially important to get rid of your baby walker if it was made before July 1997. Walkers made since then must meet additional safety standards, including having a diameter of at least 36 inches (too wide to fit through most, but not all, doorways).
Neglecting to Use a Meat Thermometer
Cooking food properly is key to protecting your family from food-borne illnesses like E. coli and salmonella. And while a case of E. coli can certainly make an adult ill, it can overwhelm a child's body and potentially result in kidney failure. Unfortunately, not even half the population owns a meat thermometer. The next time you think you can eyeball when those hamburgers are done, consider this: one in four turns brown before reaching a safe temperature.
What to do: Use a large oven-safe thermometer for roasts and a digital "instant read" thermometer for other meats, such as hamburgers and chicken breasts. Cook until the internal temperature reaches at least 160 degrees for beef and pork, 145 degrees for lamb and veal, and 180 degrees for poultry.