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Bathroom Safety

Angela Oswalt, MSW

Just like the kitchen, the bathroom can become a safe and pleasant place for bath time and other baby fun times if important precautions are observed. The best way to keep babies safe from bathroom hazards is to simply keep them out of the bathroom when they are not accompanied by an adult. A simple door latch or lock, installed well above a toddler's reach, can make this easy to enforce. As is also the case in the kitchen, all substances that may be poisonous to babies and toddlers, such as shampoo, perfume, other cosmetics and objects that can be dangerous such as fingernail clippers and razors, should be kept out of reach in latched cabinets. Care must be taken when disposing of used bathroom materials as well, or all the careful locking down of unsafe items will be for nothing.

bathroomSpecial precautions should be taken for storing medications. All medication containers should have child-resistant caps installed and in use. All containers should be stored out of reach or (better) locked into a special medication lock-box. Caregivers should never refer to medication as "candy" (even in jest). Instead, children should be taught from early on that medication may be dangerous and should only be administered or handled by adults.

To prevent drownings, family members should fit their toilet lid with a safety latch and keep it down and fully covered at all times. As strange as it may seem, babies have drowned by falling into toilets. Babies and toddlers can drown in as little as an inch of water! Caregivers need to be especially careful whenever babies are around water.

Though bath time can be a fun time, it is also a time when infants are at special risk for drowning. Caregivers should never leave a child under the age of 5 alone in the bathtub, even if the child is seated in a bathing chair. If the doorbell or telephone rings, parents should either ignore the signal or, take the child with them (wrapped in a towel) while responding to it. Bathtubs should be drained immediately after each use. Any standing water left in a bathtub creates an unnecessary drowning hazard.

Another risk associated with bath time is the possibility that babies may be scalded by coming into contact with very hot water. Home water heaters should be set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit/48 degrees Celsius or lower to reduce the potential for burning young children's delicate skin. Parents can and should also install a scald protector on the bathtub faucet. This protector shuts off the water if it becomes too hot. Even with these precautions taken, caregivers should always test the bathtub water temperature with the sensitive part of their arm, or even better, a thermometer, to make sure it's not too hot, or too cold before placing their child in that water. Optimum bath water temperature is between 98 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit/36 and 37 degrees Celsius.

Parents can also slip inflatable or foam protectors over the faucet handles and spout. Such protectors will help prevent babies from burning themselves on the possibly hot metal fixtures and will also prevent little hands from turning the hot water on by themselves. As an added bonus, they also prevent babies from getting bruises by accidentally bumping into the fixtures. Parents can also install non-slip mats in the bottom of the tub and the rim to prevent slips and falls for older toddlers.

Caregivers must be aware of any hair dryers, curling irons, or other cosmetic tools that may be present in the bathroom. Such devices become extremely hot and/or may cause electrocution. Hair dryers, curling irons and similar tools should be kept unplugged when not in use, with their cords wound up out of babies' reach. Electric cords must also be kept out of babies' reach when such tools are on and in use. Electric tools should not be used around water. All such appliances made since the 1990's should be outfitted with a reset button at the end of the cord to help prevent electrocutions. Ground fault interrupter electrical outlets should be installed near any sources of water (such as sinks and tubs) if they are not already present.