Bathroom Safety Basics

Ordinary components of practically any bathroom are hazards that warrant childproofing attention. Here's what you can do to make it safe.

Water Hazards

Standing water, scalding hot water, hard and slippery surfaces, pretty poisons in the guise of toiletries and medications, razor blades, and electrical appliances - ordinary components of practically any bathroom - are hazards that warrant childproofing attention. Here's what you can do to make it safe.

  • Never let even a small amount of water stand in the tub. Children have been known to drown in as little as two inches of water. Toilet bowls and diaper pails pose similar drowning hazards to curios, top-heavy toddlers. Choose diaper pails with locking lids, and always close the toilet lid after use. Invest in a special child-safe toilet lock that is easy for adults to maneuver, but difficult for your child to figure out.
  • Water temperature in your water-heating system should not exceed 120 degrees F. Set the water heat to a maximum of 120 degrees F to prevent the possibility of scalds. For added protection, install an antiscald device. Double-check water temperature with a bath thermometer. If your house was built in the mid-1980s or later, antiscald valves may be built into your plumbing. If not, several different types of do-it-yourself retrofit devices that stop the flow of water when the temperature reaches 115 degrees F are available. Whole-value replacements maintain a maximum temperature of 115 to 120 degrees F and compensate for any changes in water pressure and temperature that may occur; they are best installed by a plumber.
  • Install childproof tub and sink knobs, so a child cannot turn the water on. Also use a faucet cover that pads the faucet and prevents burns caused by brushing up against it when it's hot. They are available in countless fun shapes, colors, and characters.
  • Hard, slipper surfaces. A wet tub or wet tile floor can be extremely slippery. Injuries can easily occur if a young child slips as she sits, stands in, or climbs in or out of a tub. Place a nonslip mat or appliques at the bottom of the tub and a nonskid rug or bathmat on the floor next to the tub. Always wipe up water that has splashed on to the floor quickly, so it will not add to the risk of slipping. Commercial padding is available that fits snugly over the top edge of the tub, cushioning the hard surfaces and preventing serious injury should a child fall against it. Or drape a thick damp towel over the tub side during your child's bath.
  • Avoiding shock. Cap all electrical outlets not in use with safety covers. Make sure outlets are protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) to safeguard against electrocution. Always unplug small appliances, such as hair dryers and curling irons, when not in use, and put them safely out of the reach of children. Remember, too, that some items can retain enough electricity to cause shock after they have been turned off. Don't use appliances near a bathtub or sink full of water and keep the toilet lid closed when small appliances are in use. As an added precaution against electrocution, do not use space heaters or extension cords in the bathroom.

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