Door missing pane may create hazard for a toddler


March 31, 1992|By Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe | Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe,Contributing Writers

Q: My friends have removed a pane of glass from their French door so their cat can come and go. I'm worried that their toddler will get stuck trying to crawl through. Is this a hazard for the child?

A: You highlight an important danger for children of which parents may not be aware. The natural curiosity of children may lead them into places where they shouldn't go. We call these places "entrapment hazards." A house with children shouldn't have them.

Some of the most tragic instances of entrapment happen when the openings in a guardrail allow a child's body to slip through, but the relatively large head can't pass, and the child hangs, sometimes fatally. New baby cribs are designed with the upright railings close together -- no more than 2 3/8 inches apart -- so neither body nor head can slip through. Other guardrails, such as along stairs, should not have any spaces large enough to permit a 4-inch ball from passing through.

You ask, however, about a rectangular hole in the bottom part of a door. We suspect it's not so small that it would meet the requirements of the guardrails mentioned above. Getting stuck might result in cuts, bruises, wounded pride, panicky parents, damage to the door and possibly the child during a tricky extrication. Although not likely to result in a fatal injury, it's certainly a scene most would choose to avoid.

We suggest that your friends make a tight blanket roll that's at least as round as the roundest part of the child. Use a tape measure on both to be sure. Try to pass the blanket roll through the space without touching the sides. If the blanket roll is a tight squeeze, put new glass in the French door and go back to opening the door for the cat.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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