Keeping children safe in the home

by Katelin Whiddon

Of course we all want to keep kids as safe as possible, but sometimes that is easier said than done. There are multiple hazards in our homes that we must be aware of to keep our kids safe and healthy — some are obvious, while others are not.  

A book could be written (and probably has been) on all of the potential hazards in the home, but these are some of the more common sources. There are 21 million medical visits and 20,000 deaths that occur each year from accidents in the home. Home injuries are a leading cause of accidental deaths in children.


At the top of the list are choking hazards. Eliminating choking hazards is one of the first types of “baby proofing” that we often recommend. Babies and toddlers love to pick things up and put them in their mouths.  

Be sure to keep small toy parts out of a small child’s reach as well as batteries, dog food, buttons, coins and anything else that is small enough to go in your child’s mouth. They love to “explore” the world around them using their mouths. Magnets can also be potentially deadly if more than one is ingested at a time.

The No. 1 choking food hazard is hot dogs.  Cut them lengthwise first, then into small bites. Always stay near your child when they are eating. Kids love the idea of packing their mouths full of food, creating choking risks.


One of the scariest hazards, latex balloons, can also be a fatal hazard in the home.  

A great rule of thumb — and we follow it in my house and have since I was a young child — no balloons in the house. Children should never blow up balloons or do anything with them near their face/mouth.

Balloons can easily lodge in an airway, conforming to the airway’s shape and covering the airway creating a tight seal that is nearly impossible to break. We have witnessed this very tragic result in our church family. Mylar balloons offer less risk, but the sure thing is just say no to balloons.

There are chemical hazards in our homes also. Keep medications, cleaning supplies, laundry products and make-up out of the reach of children.

Keep these in high cabinets and lock them if possible so children cannot get to them.  

If your child ever ingests any non-food material, consider it dangerous and call Poison Control to help you determine what to do next. Have the ingested material’s container in front of you when you call. You should program Poison Control’s number in your phone right now and post it in a visible place in your home for times when your child is under someone else’s care. The poison control number is 1.800.222.1222.


Burns and fire are another potential danger in the home. Never leave the stove unattended, and always place pots and pans towards the back of the stove with handles turned away from the edge. You should never leave a hot oven door open, as curiosity will invite kids to touch the hot surface.

To avoid burns from hot water, adjust your hot water heater to 120 degrees or below.

Talk to toddlers and older children about fire safety and develop a fire safety plan for the home. In the case of fire, discourage them from hiding, but have a family meeting place in a safe location outside the home. Children learn best through repetition, so be sure to review this often with your children.

Another common cause of injury or death is from children pulling televisions or furniture over on them. Be sure to anchor bookshelves and other taller pieces of furniture to the wall to prevent it falling over on children. If your television is on a stand, be sure to keep it pushed back on the stand or anchor it as well to prevent injury.

“Child proofing” the home can be a very large and constantly evolving task, but that work can potentially save the lives of children. If you have any questions about potential hazards in the home, be sure to talk to your child’s pediatrician.  

Some great online sources are the American Academy of Pediatrics ( and (search for the article “Babyproofing 101:10 Household Safety Hazards”).

(Did you enter the Poison Control number into your cell phone yet?)


A Conway native, Katelin Whiddon is a nurse practitioner at the Conway wound clinic for Arkansas Heart Hospital. She and her husband, Daniel, have two daughters. A University of Central Arkansas graduate, she has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and has worked previously in pediatrics.