Every parent, whether to a two-legged or four-legged child, knows you always have to be thinking 10 steps ahead of your baby or pet. That’s because kids and pets are totally unpredictable, and can find themselves in dangerous situations if you’re not careful.
Let’s acknowledge how hard it is for parents to account for every danger or health hazard that may befall their baby or pet. You could be the most cautious, prepared homeowner in the world, but sometimes unforeseen hazards arise.
As the old adage goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” That’s why we’ve put together this homeowner’s guide for baby-proofing and pet-proofing a home. These tips will help you identify safety hazards and health risks, and provide you with the best solutions so you can keep everyone safe and healthy.
Here are the categories of health and safety dangers and hazards we’ll cover:
- Electrical outlets and cords
- Plumbing, sinks and tubs
- Burning, choking and tripping hazards
- Poisons, toxins and harmful substances
Each of these types of dangers has baby-proofing and pet-proofing solutions you can use. Many of them are simple fixes you can do in under a day, and some require professional expertise. Some solutions may need immediate action, while you can implement others over time.
1. Electrical Outlets and Cords
The risk of electrocution is very real when you have babies and pets in the home. Young ones are curious by nature, and they may be drawn to your electrical outlets. In fact, for babies, standard electrical outlets can look like faces with two eyes and a mouth. What baby wouldn’t want to poke at funny faces on the wall?
But it’s not just electrical outlets you need to worry about. Cords can also be a home hazard if you leave them unsecured and exposed. Puppies and kittens can access the electrical cords and chew through them. This can damage the cord and create a risk of electrocution as well.
Besides safety, there’s also the risk of children and pets unplugging your devices. It’s easy for a baby or pet to crawl or walk over a cord and rip it from the outlet. It’s also a possibility little fingers or paws can switch off an entire power strip, effectively shutting down your entire entertainment system.
These scenarios are easy enough to prevent when you have the right solutions and products designed to baby-proof your home. Here are some of the products you can use to protect your babies, pets and your devices:
- Outlet covers — Covering unused electrical outlets is a pretty standard solution. But there are some more sophisticated outlet covers available today that maybe weren’t available when you were a kid. There are still the plastic covers that clip into the outlet, which are good for covering standard, unused sockets. But there are built-in outlet cover solutions, as well. One version is a tamper-proof outlet, which automatically covers the slots. The slots only open when you press two buttons at the same time. Another version is a plate slide outlet, which is a spring-loaded cover that slides across to block the outlet when not in use.
- Plug protectors — In addition to covering the unused outlets, you’ll also need a solution for preventing kids and babies from tampering with plugged-in cords. One solution is a plastic box that fits over the outlet. It has two openings for the cords to pass through, keeping the plugs firmly in place. Another solution is a bigger version of a plug protector. These are large enough to cover power adapters and thick extension cords.
- Power strip covers — There are solutions available to cover your existing power strip. That way, you can keep your power strip where it is, but prevent pets and babies from tampering with the unused outlets and unplugging your items. Power strip covers slide right over your power strip and have cut-outs to allow the cords through. If there are any little remaining gaps, you’ll need to improvise by taping them over to prevent small hands from getting
- Covering and hiding long cords — Long cords can be dangerous to anyone, never mind newly walking toddlers. Extension cords are a tripping hazard, so you should only use them occasionally, then put them away immediately after you’re finished. But if you need to have long cords, be sure to strategically place furniture in front of them to prevent pulling, tripping, chewing or looping them around your child. Rubber cord covers flatten and secure long cords to the ground. Or you can use a cord shortener, which allows you to wrap up long cords and contain them in a plastic case.
Take note if your pet has a habit of chewing on electrical cords — especially during the holidays when you hang up strands of lights. For added safety and precaution, be sure to regularly check cords for damage such as cracks or fraying. If you notice any damage, then replace these cords immediately. It’s also a best practice to keep cords hidden away whenever you leave your puppy home alone.
2. Plumbing, Sinks and Tubs
Plumbing presents its own unique set of challenges to pets and babies. If you’re looking to baby-proof your home, you need to consider the serious risk of drowning and scalding. Tubs, sinks and toilets can all provide enough water to drown, so these need to be priorities when you go to baby-proof your home.
Also, consider your water temperature. Hot water running through sink or tub faucets can heat up the metal and cause skin burns on contact. The tub also presents a slipping hazard, which can cause severe injuries to anyone, but especially to young kids.
Plumbing hazards can also harm pets. If you use chemical cleaning products in the toilet bowl, they can poison dogs and cats looking for a water source. Keeping the toilet lid closed is the easiest way to pet-proof your home against this type of danger.
There are many simple baby-proofing solutions that can prevent water hazards. Here are some of the ways to baby proof your home against drowning, slipping and scalding:
- Toilet lid locks — Babies and toddlers are at great risk of drowning in even as little as one inch of water. That’s why it’s important to eliminate sources of water that can pose a risk of drowning. It may seem as simple as keeping the toilet lids closed, but as children grow, they will learn how to open the lid themselves. Be sure to install a toilet lid lock to keep babies away.
- Faucet covers — Faucets and pipes that run hot water can heat up to high temperatures. It’s easy for babies to scald themselves on these parts. Use faucet covers on your sinks to protect burning your children’s skin.
- Reduce water heater temperature — Hot water is especially dangerous to sensitive To prevent scalding baths, be sure to turn down the temperature on your water heater. Experts advise keeping it at no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Anti-slip mats — Soapy water can cause a slipping hazard in tubs. That’s why it’s important to put down anti-slip mats with a rubberized grip to prevent tumbles and falls. Additionally, it’s good to get into the habit of wiping up spills on the bathroom or kitchen floors to prevent little ones from slipping.
3. Burning, Choking and Tripping Hazards
There are countless miscellaneous hazards you may need to baby-proof your home against. One of these is baseboard heaters. These are right at infant and pet height, and can burn your little ones if not protected. Floor vents are another hazard that can cause cuts or catch on fingers and toes.
Stairs and railings are another major concern for parents, though building codes today account for railing measurements to prevent heads from getting stuck. Similarly, many windows today have locks and latches that prevent wide openings and keep your kids and pets safe.
Other hazards can arise from small parts babies and pets might chew on. Toys laying around the living room can also cause tripping incidents. Thankfully, there are lots of creative solutions for managing these risks, which can help you fully baby- and pet-proof your home:
- Install radiant floor heating — Radiant floor heating is a subfloor heating method you can turn on and off, just like any other heating device. It’s an excellent solution for homes with pets and children because the heat source is safely tucked under the floor. Subfloor heating prevents babies and pets from accidentally touching heating mechanisms like baseboard heaters, oil heating units or space heaters. By installing radiant floor heating units throughout your home, you can experience the comfort and safety of warm feet on a cold day.
- Baby and pet gates — Most households with children will have a baby gate at some point or another. Baby gates block off stairways and certain rooms to prevent falls. But baby gates can also double as puppy gates. This is important because you can block off certain rooms in your home to prevent your dog from chewing your shoe collection. Gates also keep dogs away from trash cans, bathroom products and food on the countertops. This is a simple way to prevent the surprise of coming home to a disaster.
- Small parts and toy containers — If you have a growing family with a baby and older children, it’s important to stay on alert for hazards from different types of toys. Small parts like Legos can be a choking hazard for babies and pets alike. Make sure you have bins and containers to keep toys tucked out of reach.
4. Poisons, Toxins and Harmful Substances
No conversation about baby- and pet-proofing a home would be complete without mentioning chemical products and other harmful substances. Babies are curious and attracted to bright, shiny labels. Likewise, pets are attracted to the distinct scents from many household cleaners or other toxic products.
According to the CDC, poisonous substances kill an average of two children every day in America. Poisoning may come from children accidentally consuming chemical cleaning products or prescription medications. That’s why it’s critical to keep all toxic products locked away in elevated cupboards. Or, if you store cleaning products under the sink, be sure to use baby- and pet-proof cabinet locks to restrict access.
In addition to harmful products, there is another common health risk that many homeowners aren’t even aware of — indoor air quality. Several studies have found more than 96 percent of American homes have poor indoor air quality. The EPA considers poor indoor quality as one of the top five greatest environmental health risks, and poor indoor air quality can be damaging to young ones.
Common causes of poor indoor air quality are mold and allergens. Mold can build up virtually anywhere moisture has collected. Allergens, dust mites and other harmful substances can collect in air vents and ducts. Exposure to these toxins, especially in young, developing lungs, can lead to allergies, asthma and other chronic health conditions.
The good news is, you can baby-proof your home against poor indoor air quality with the right professional services and air quality systems:
- Air duct cleaning — Air duct cleaning is a professional service that eliminates harmful substances in your home’s HVAC system. Dust mites, pollen, debris and pet dander build up in your ducts, preventing the system from functioning properly and polluting your home’s indoor air. Regular duct cleaning ensures you’re protecting your family from air pollution.
- Air cleaners — Air cleaners are customizable indoor air quality solutions you can install in your house to improve your family’s health. Air cleaners use different types of filtration systems to remove pollutants from the air on an ongoing basis. Whether you need a HEPA air filter, an electronic air cleaner or a media air filter, professional contractors can work with you to choose the right system that will keep your family healthy.
- Whole-house humidifiers and dehumidifiers — Depending on your home’s humidity level, you may benefit from a whole-house humidification or dehumidification system. During the winter, dry indoor air can harbor viruses and bacteria that can lead to respiratory infections, colds and flu. On the other hand, high-humidity environments can breed mold spores, which can cause other types of respiratory conditions in young children. You can help baby-proof your home from sickness by making sure it’s at the right humidity level with either a humidifying or dehumidifying solution.
Work With Haller to Baby- and Pet-Proof Your Home
As a parent and homeowner, you have lots to think about when it comes to pet- and baby-proofing your home. From electrical to plumbing to air systems, there are many ways you can make your home safer, healthier and more comfortable for your little ones.
Haller Enterprises is dedicated to helping our customers achieve the best home improvement solutions possible. If you’re looking for electrical, plumbing and HVAC services in the Central Pennsylvania area, then contact Haller today. We’ll be happy to help create a healthier home for your children and pets now and well into the future.
Also – feel free to check out previous installments of our “Homeowner Series” below: