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Bathroom Safety Basics

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.

  • Lock away all bathroom cleaning products and supplies. Most are toxic when ingested and harmful if they come into contact with skin or eyes, and some are so potent that just inhaling the fumes can cause serious damage. Medications -- over-the-counter preparations from aspirin to vitamins and those prescribed by a doctor -- are best safety locked away in a special chest, drawer, closet, or medicine cabinet.
  • Use easy-to-install medicine chest locks. Choose locks that are simple for an adult, but not a child, to operate. (Note that many medications are best stored in a room other than the bathroom, since the heat and humidity may cause them to deteriorate).
  • Make sure medication comes in childproof containers. Toiletries -- from shampoo and deodorants to perfume and cosmetics -- should not be accessible to very young children. Place them high and well out of sight and reach or lock them up. Be sure to check the area around your tub and shower, removing shampoos, conditioners, and razors.
  • Secure hampers or laundry shoots so a child cannot become trapped or fall in.
  • Put safety locks on any windows.
  • Lock away the garbage can inside a cabinet or under the sink so that it, too, is out of a toddler's reach.
  • Keep cat litter boxes contained. If you keep a cat litter box in the bathroom, choose an enclosed model with small opening or place it behind a childproof gate. (Cats easily learn to jump over.)

From The Parents Answer Book: From Birth Through Age Five, by the editors of Parents magazine. Copyright © 2000 by Roundtable Press and G+J USA Publishing.

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.