The 15 Biggest Safety Mistakes

Smoke Detectors, Balloons, and Grandma's Purse

Babyproofing Your Home: Grammy┐s House
Babyproofing Your Home: Grammy┐s House

Forgetting to Change the Batteries in Your Smoke Detector

While most homes in the U.S. (94 percent) report having at least one smoke alarm, only 75 percent have a working one. Often the batteries are dead or were removed because the alarm sounded while someone was cooking or taking a hot shower. Each year nearly 40,000 children are injured in home fires, with children younger than 5 twice as likely to die, mainly from smoke inhalation.

What to do: Test all your smoke alarms each month, and replace the batteries at least once a year. To help you remember, do it when you change your clocks at the beginning and end of daylight saving time. Safe Kids recommends installing one alarm on every level of your home and in every sleeping area. (Look for alarms that also work as carbon monoxide detectors.) Move detectors away from kitchens and bathrooms to prevent false alarms.

Getting Latex Balloons

Parents really get a mixed message when it comes to balloons, says Dr. Smith. "You can walk into any store and find a bag of latex balloons imprinted with 'Baby's First Birthday.' But this is exactly the age when your child is most at risk for choking on them." When balloons pop, toddlers manage to find pieces to put into their mouth. The latex easily gets lodged in their throat, which is why balloons account for 44 percent of all child toy-related choking deaths.

What to do: Celebrate your baby's birthday with Mylar balloons instead. Filled with helium, they stay aloft longer. And they don't pop, breaking into many pieces; they just deflate. Beware of any latex balloons your baby might come across at other parties, such as balloon animals made by the party clown.

Forgetting to Childproof Grandma's Purse

Nana's handbag can be a real hazard, possibly containing medications, cosmetics, cigarettes, a sewing kit, loose change, gum, and hard candies. In almost one in four cases of children ages 4 and younger ingesting prescription drugs, the medicine belonged to someone who didn't live with the child -- usually a grandparent. Many seniors opt for non-childproof, easy-open caps on their prescriptions, or they carry a week's worth of doses in flip-top plastic boxes marked with the days. Even an adult vitamin can be toxic to a child.

What to do: Don't be shy. When grandparents come over or you visit them, ask to place their purse or bag on top of the refrigerator or lock it in a cabinet right away. My mom keeps hers locked in the car. Remind them how dangerous even vitamins can be.

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