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Hidden Household Dangers Can Pose Threat to Babies
September is Baby Safety Month

By Carol Ball, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

A common cause of injury to infants and toddlers are accidental falls. Injuries sustained from falls can range from bumps and bruises to serious head injuries. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), each year 3 million children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. Eighty percent of those fall-related injuries occur in the home, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. From 1999-2001, Georgia alone reported 1,870 children age 14 and under who were hospitalized because of a fall.

Infants and toddlers in particular are more likely to suffer injury from falls related to stairs, furniture and nursery products. For example, in 2002 4,600 children ages 4 and under were rushed to the emergency room to be treated for baby walker injuries, according to the CPSC. At least 80 percent of those injuries occurred when the baby and walker took a tumble down the stairs.

Taking precautions can go a long way toward protecting babies from accidental injury. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Safe Kids Georgia offers the following advice to parents and caregivers to help prevent accidental falls:

*Install approved baby gates on doorways and stairways at the top and bottom. Lightweight and affordable gates are available for purchase.

*Lock all windows and move cribs, chairs and other furniture away from them.

*Lower the crib's mattress level when the child begins to stand and climb. Keep all items, such as stuffed animals and toys, out of the crib to prevent their use as a "ladder."

*Never leave a baby alone on a changing table, bed or other furniture. Never change infants on furniture such as tables or couches because they can roll off and sustain head and other injuries.

*Securely strap babies into high chairs, swings, strollers, shopping carts etc. using a safety belt with a crotch strap.

*Baby walkers are discouraged. These toys are associated with more injuries than any other baby-specific toy or piece of equipment. Use an Activity Center instead to stimulate your child's and promote development.

*Install window guards to prevent toddlers from falls out of windows. Never depend on screens to keep children from falling.

For additional information about fall prevention, please call Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at 404-250-kids or visit www.choa.org or www.safekids.org.

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