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Household Safety: Preventing Strangulation and Entrapment

Kids can strangle or become entrapped in the most unexpected ways — even cords, strings on clothing, and infant furniture and accessories can be dangerous.

Avoiding Potential Hazards

To protect kids from strangulation and entrapment, follow these safety tips:

  • Don't put necklaces or headbands on your baby.
  • Don't dress young kids in clothes with drawstrings, which are a strangulation hazard if caught on play equipment or furniture. Cut all drawstrings out of hoods, jackets, and waistbands in your young child's wardrobe. Cut strings off mittens.
  • Don't leave a child alone in a stroller — babies can slide down and trap their head.
  • Don't use cribs with cutouts in the headboard or footboard.
  • Make sure the crib mattress is the right size and fits snugly in the crib. This keeps a baby from getting caught between the mattress and the crib sides.
  • Don't put infants to sleep on adult beds, couches, or other soft surfaces.
  • Keep mobiles out of reach, and remove from cribs by 5 months or once a child is able to push to hands and knees. Clip strings or ribbons off other crib toys.
  • Avoid using bumper pads in cribs. Although bumper pads look soft and seem like they might protect a baby from bumps, they do not prevent serious injuries. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found a number of accidental deaths appeared to be related to the use of bumper pads in cribs and bassinets. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Canadian Pediatric Society both recommend against using crib bumpers.
  • Make sure crib slats are no more than 2-3/8 inches (6 centimeters) apart; anything wider can trap a child's head.
  • Bunk beds should have only a narrow space between the guardrail and mattress. Do not allow kids younger than 6 to sleep on a bunk bed.
  • Don't tie a pacifier around your baby's neck or tether it to your baby's clothing with a ribbon or piece of string.
  • Don't hang diaper bags or purses on cribs — a baby can become entangled in the straps or strings.
  • Remove your infant's bib before naptime and bedtime.
  • Don't let long telephone cords dangle to the floor.
  • Don't use old accordion-style gates — these can trap a child's head.
  • Never put a crib, child's bed, or furniture near window blinds or curtains.
  • Tie all window blinds and drapery cords, or cut the ends and attach safety tassels.
  • Fit the inner cords of blinds with cord stops.
  • Choose a toy chest without a lid. 

Be Prepared

If you're expecting a baby or you already have a child, it's wise to:

  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the abdominal thrust procedure (the Heimlich maneuver).
  • Keep these numbers near the phone (for yourself and caregivers):
    • poison-control center number: 1-800-222-1222
    • your child's doctor's number
    • parents' work and cellphone numbers
    • neighbor's or nearby relative's number (if you need someone to watch other kids in an emergency)
  • Make a first-aid kit and keep emergency instructions inside.
  • Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

A Safe, Kid-Friendly Home

To check your childproofing efforts, get down on your hands and knees in every room of your home for a kid's-eye view. Be aware of your child's surroundings and what could be dangerous.

Completely childproofing a home can be difficult. If you can't childproof the entire house, you can shut the doors (and install doorknob covers) to any room that hasn't been properly childproofed. For sliding doors, doorknob covers and childproof locks are great for keeping little ones from leaving your home.

Of course, how much or how little you childproof your home is up to you. Keeping a close eye on kids is the very best way to protect them from injuries.

Whether you have a baby, toddler, or school-age child, your home should be a safe place for your little one to explore. After all, touching, holding, climbing, and exploring are the activities that develop your child's body and mind.

Date reviewed: October 2016