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Home Childproofing Tips

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It probably seems like ages since you did a grand childproofing tour of your house, methodically plugging wall sockets, putting gates up at the stairs, and removing glass tabletops and breakable objects. Now that your 2-year-old is leaving babyhood behind, you might be tempted to ease some of the precautions. Don't! In fact, you may actually need to add some new measures to your childproofing list to stay one step ahead of your active toddler.

The kitchen, for starters, can become a vastly more dangerous place. Suddenly, those little hands can reach higher than you realized -- for the knobs on the stove, the handle of a frying pan, a percolating coffeepot. To prevent burns, cook on the stove's back burners whenever possible, and keep handles of pots and pans turned away from the counter's edge. Don't set hot food on the table anywhere near your toddler, and store matches and cigarette lighters where he can't possibly reach them.

Many kids this age are mesmerized by the cooking process. If your budding chef wants to see what's simmering, hold him up for a quick peek, but only at a safe distance and not if the food has the potential to spatter hot liquid. Use this opportunity -- and every available one -- to explain that anything on the stove is hot and is never to be touched.

To prevent burns in the bathroom, set your water heater at as low a temperature as possible (120° F. or lower), and always test the bathwater's temperature carefully before plunking your child into the tub. And don't leave him there unattended even for a second. Drowning is a real risk at this age, and so is the chance that your child will try to turn on the hot water, scalding himself in the process.

Falls are another peril for the 2-year-old. Keep furniture, especially beds, safely away from upper-story windows. Window guards are an added safety measure; in some cities, apartment buildings are required by law to have them. All looped window blind cords are a strangulation hazard and should be cut into two strands and secured out of kids' reach.

Poisons remain a hazard now as well. Your child's manual dexterity has increased, and so have her problem-solving abilities, so some heretofore tricky containers are now a snap to open.

To keep medicines (including vitamins) out of reach, put them in a cabinet with a lock on it. Store household cleaners in a high cabinet, safely out of sight and reach. Never transfer a poisonous substance (such as bleach) into a container that looks as though it might hold something to eat or drink (such as an empty milk jug). And remember: Alcoholic beverages can be toxic if ingested by a small child, so lock up all your liquor, too.

Accidents do happen, even when precautions are taken. Keep a bottle of syrup of ipecac (which induces vomiting) in your medicine cabinet, and have the poison control center's phone number handy. Should your child ingest a harmful substance, don't make him vomit unless instructed to do so by a doctor or a poison specialist.

Another menace 2-year-olds face is choking-both on food and small objects, including toy parts and other loose ends. Even though your child may have a full set of baby teeth (or nearly so), continue to monitor his food carefully. Don't give a child this age hard candies or any small, round, firm foods (such as hot dogs, raw carrots, nuts, grapes) unless well chopped or cooked until soft. Eating while running, playing, jumping, or laughing is perilous at any age.

If your child has an older sibling or plays at an older child's house, keep a careful eye on the toys at hand. Playthings for children age 3 and above often have small parts that your toddler may want to put in his mouth. Also, check his own toys from time to time to ensure that no pieces are coming loose and becoming hazards.

One common toy that can be deadly is the latex balloon. Before it's inflated and after it bursts, this kind of balloon can be difficult to dislodge from a child's throat. Never allow toddlers to blow up balloons; once a balloon bursts or deflates, discard it. Somewhat safer than latex balloons are those made of Mylar. Still, always supervise play with any type of balloon.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.