Safe at Grandma's?

Kids: Grandparents should check their houses to make sure the little ones will have a safe stay

Senior Life

July 18, 1999|By Korky Vann | Korky Vann,HARTFORD COURANT

For many American families, a trip to Grandma's house tops the list of summer vacation plans. The annual trek can mean a break for Mom and Dad, notorious spoiling for the kids and a year's worth of hugs and kisses for grandparents.

But without preparations, it can also include an unexpected detour to the emergency room. Each year millions of kids are treated for household accidents such as poisonings, water-related injuries, falls, burns, choking and cuts. To avoid a vacation calamity and prevent unintentional injuries, Dr. Kyle Holmes, staff physician in the emergency department at Manchester Memorial Hospital in Connecticut, says, grandparents need to childproof their homes before the grandkids arrive.

"Grandparents sometimes forget how quickly kids love to explore and how fast they can get into things," Holmes said. "To keep them safe, you've got to take a look at your environment -- inside and out -- from a kids' perspective and eliminate the hazards ahead of time."

For starters, experts recommend removing all obvious hazards such as cleaning supplies, medications, paints and solvents. Close off rooms that contain safety risks such as tools or exercise equipment. Lock doors to balconies or decks and install safety guards on window screens.

Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove and use back burners whenever possible. Keep kids inside when you mow the lawn and never give kids rides on mowers. Make sure fire detectors are working and keep the Poison Control Center number by the phone.

"Even the most loving grandparents can unknowingly put their grandchildren in danger when they overlook simple precautions," Eileen Henzy, coordinator of Connecticut Safe Kids, said.

According to a survey released by the National Safe Kids Campaign, grandparents rate unintentional injuries as their first concern when caring for grandchildren -- and with good reason. Statistics show that preventable injury is the leading killer of kids 14 and younger.

Many grandparents need updated information on the latest child safety practices and devices, the survey reveals. To help, the Safe Kids Campaign has published a free guide, "Helping Every Generation Care for Kids." The brochure contains information on everything from fire, burn and poisoning prevention to motor vehicle safety.

"Grandparents have the best intentions. But they may not be aware of how child safety practices have changed since their own kids were little," Henzy said.

For example, many states have laws requiring children under 12 to wear helmets when riding bicycles. And many laws also require that children under age 4 who weigh less than 40 pounds use child-safety seats in cars.

In addition, says Henzy, that old crib you've kept for your long-awaited grandchild may now be considered dangerous because it doesn't meet current safety standards, and window-blind and curtain cords can pose strangulation hazards. The old baby walker in the attic could cause a tyke to take a nasty tumble down the stairs, and the family toy box may contain toys with broken or missing parts, or have a lid that could slip and cause serious injury.

For more information

For a free copy of "Helping Every Generation Care for Kids," write to the National Safe Kids Campaign, 1301 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Suite 1000, Washington, D.C. 20004, or visit its Web site at

To order "Childproofing Your Home: 12 Safety Devices to Protect Your Children," (Item 618F) call toll-free at 888-8-PUEBLO, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. or write to the Consumer Information Center, Dept. 618F, Pueblo, Colo. 81009.

Pub Date: 07/18/99

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