Some devices that are supposed to protect children can actually put them in danger. Find out which nine products are harmful and how to protect your child.
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Plastic Outlet Covers
The Risk: Outlet covers help prevent your child from getting electrocuted, but small plastic plug-in models can pose a deadly choking hazard. Even if the caps seem to fit snugly, they tend to loosen with use.
Safe Strategy: Get covers that screw into the wall and slide shut when outlets aren't in use, or block unused outlets with furniture. The Home Safety Council recommends that if you use plug-in covers, you should look for ones that are too big to fit through a toilet-paper tube, or choose devices that you must twist or squeeze to remove.
Bath Seats and Rings
The Risk: They help babies sit up in the bathtub, but if you leave a baby alone in one -- even for a few seconds -- he can drown. The seats, which typically stick to the tub with suction cups, have been blamed for 123 drownings since 1983, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The suction cups can suddenly release, causing babies to tip over or slide between the legs of the ring and become trapped underwater.
Safe Strategy: Consider using a small plastic tub instead. Always keep babies within arm's reach in the bath. "You should never leave a baby alone in the bath, even for a moment," says Denise Dowd, MD, an emergency-room pediatrician at Children's Mercy Hospital, in Kansas City, Missouri.
The Risk: Several warmers have been recalled because they pose a potential electrocution and fire hazard, and others have scorched furniture. "There have just been too many fires and reports of problems," says consumer advocate Alan Fields, who advises against these products in his book Baby Bargains. "It's an unnecessary risk for something most kids can do without."
Safe Strategy: If you use a warmer, follow the instructions carefully, especially if they recommend adding water. If it's not brand new, check cpsc.gov to make sure that the model hasn't been recalled. The best solution? Just hold wipes in your hands for a few minutes to warm them up.
The Risk: While pads keep babies from bumping their heads, they may be risky. "Once a baby is able to roll, she can press her face against a bumper and suffocate," says Laura Reno, spokesperson for First Candle, a national SIDS nonprofit organization. Older babies and toddlers can also use the pads to climb out of their cribs.
Safe Strategy: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises choosing ones that are thin, firm, and well secured. Be sure to remove them once children can roll or, at the latest, when they can stand up in a crib. It's best to avoid them altogether.
The Risk: Kids get annoyed when their shoulder seat belt rides up too high, but seat-belt positioners may actually interfere with proper fit, warns the AAP and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). "There is no safety standard for these add-on devices, and we discourage parents from using them," says Sandy Sinclair, a safety specialist with the NHTSA.
Safe Strategy: If children too short for a regular seat belt, they should be using a booster seat that has a built-in belt positioner. Experts recommend that children ride in a booster seat until they are 4'9" or at least 8 years old.
The Risk: Portable bed rails have caused the deaths of 18 children since 1990, according to the CPSC. Most were children under age 2 who got trapped in a gap between the bed rail and mattress. The CPSC recently revised the rail standards. Most new bed rails won't pull away from the mattress, creating a dangerous gap.
Safe Strategy: Wait until children are at least 2 and able to climb in and out of bed before use. Use them only on full-size twin beds with a mattress and box springs, not on toddler beds or bunk beds. (Many toddler and bunk beds come with attached rails, which are safe.) Check the rails every night to make sure they're snug against the mattress.
Baby Rearview Mirrors
The Risk: Although it's certainly comforting to be able to see babies when in a rear-facing car seat, some paramedics are worried that one of these mirrors, like other loose objects in a vehicle, could become a dangerous projectile in a crash. Models that attach to the rear-seat headrest with just a suction cup are particularly risky, according to Matt Levy, national director of the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics.
Safe Strategy: Look for a mirror that's lightweight, with cushioning or rounded edges. And make sure it's tightly attached.
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