Bathroom dangers and how parents can spot them: ‘Young children are particularly at risk’

In addition to being a month of self-improvement and new beginnings, January is also National Bath Safety Month.

This month, as many parents take stock of their homes and lifestyles and identify changes they’d like to make in the new year, experts advise them not to neglect their bathrooms and bath time habits.

“Bathrooms are often the site of serious and preventable accidents,” say experts at Ravinia Plumbing. “Seniors and young children are particularly at risk.”

According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, more than 43,000 kids receive emergency treatment for bathtub and shower-related injuries every year — and more than two-thirds of drowning deaths at home occur in the bathtub.

But those injuries and deaths can be prevented by following these bathroom tips.

1. Supervise, supervise, supervise

The first rule of bath time safety is supervision.

According to Ellyn Pollack, a spokesperson for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there is no product that can replace adult supervision.

“A child can drown in a matter of minutes,” Pollack told Today. “It happens quickly and silently. A baby can slip under the water without crying or screaming or splashing around.”

Therefore, it’s absolutely crucial to never leave a baby, toddler or child unattended during their bath.

Keep everything you’ll need close at hand, including soaps, toys and towels,” says Imani Francies, a mom of two and home safety expert with Clearsurance.

“If you need to leave the room for whatever reason, ask someone else to fetch you any things you may need or just take your infant with you.”

2. Monitor water temperature and depth

Infants can drown in as little as 1 inch of water, and it can happen in the blink of an eye.

Therefore, in addition to always staying within arm’s reach of your baby during bath time, it’s essential to monitor the depth and temperature of your baby’s water.

According to the MayoClinic, the recommended depth for little ones’ bathwater is 1 to 2 inches.

To prevent scalding, set the thermostat on your water heater to below 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and aim for bathwater around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Water that is hotter than 120 degrees Fahrenheit at the bathtub is against plumbing code and can be very dangerous if an unsupervised toddler has access to it,” says Enoch Heise, licensed Journeyman Plumber and trainer for Legacy Plumbing.

“Furthermore, if you have an older shower or tub faucet with two handles instead of one, do not let it continue to run while the child is inside,” says Heise. “These faucets do not have pressure balancers installed and can suddenly change temperature without warning.”

Consider investing in an anti-scald device that shuts off the flow of water if it gets too hot and purchasing a baby bath thermometer.

3. Secure electrical outlets and appliances

Hair dryers, curling irons, electric toothbrushes — our bathrooms are full of appliances and the outlets required to power them.

According to experts at Ravinia Plumbing, bathroom outlets should be covered when not in use.

Additionally, after you’re done using them, all appliances should be unplugged and put away, as water and electronics are always a dangerous combination.

4. Lock up medicines, cleaning supplies and toiletries

Bathrooms are a kind of one-stop shop for harmful products such as medication, cleaning products and razor blades — all of which could fatally injure a small child if left within reach.

Ensure all medication is secured with childproof caps, and store them high and out of reach in a locked cabinet.

Similarly, keep all household cleaners locked up and out of kids’ reach, and make sure all razors, perfumes, lotions, hair trimmers and other toiletries are securely put away.

5. Close toilet lids

Toilets may seem innocent, but they pose serious safety risks to little ones.

“Toilets are often overlooked as a drowning hazard in the home,” says the Consumer Product Safety Commission. “The typical scenario involves a child under 3 years old falling headfirst into the toilet.”

In addition to being a drowning hazard, toilets are full of harmful bacteria that little ones shouldn’t come in contact with.

Therefore, always keep the toilet lid down and latched with a childproof safety lock.

6. Install slip-proof mats

“Slips, trips and falls can cause deep cuts, bumps and bruises, broken bones, and serious head injuries,” say the experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

To prevent such injuries, use slip-resistant mats inside and outside the bathtub or shower.

Regularly wash and dry bath mats to prevent or remove dangerous mold and mildew that can accumulate.

7. Keep floors dry and uncluttered

Because bathrooms are full of dangerous surfaces, it’s important to keep your floors dry and free of clutter to minimize falling hazards.

Make sure all toys and clothes are kept off the bathroom floor, and watch out for seemingly innocent shower rugs, which can bunch up and pose serious tripping hazards.

Instead, opt for low-profile, non-skid bath mats that can still absorb wetness without increasing fall risks.

8. Install grab bars

No matter how safe we try to be in the bathroom, slips and falls can still happen.

That’s why safety experts recommend installing safety bars inside tubs and showers.

And don’t assume that a towel rack will work just as well! Towel racks are not meant to support the weight of a person and will not keep kids safe in the event of a fall.

9. Beware of tempered glass doors

While glass doors in a shower stall might look nicer than their acrylic counterparts, they can pose a serious hazard in the event of a fall.

Although tempered glass is much safer than regular glass doors because the glass is designed to crumble into chunks rather than splinter into shards, those chunks can still cause injury.

Inspect your glass regularly for chips or cracks, and replace it immediately if you notice any.

Additionally, make sure all the hardware is secure and that the moving panels are properly aligned and attached to the door system.

10. Remove bathtub drain plugs

While little ones should never be in the bathroom unsupervised, make sure you have fail-safes in place in case they do manage to sneak in.

One such fail-safe is removing your tub’s drain plug, which experts recommend doing to prevent kids from filling up the tub.

While the running water can still pose a very serious danger to kids — as it can still pose a drowning or scalding risk — the lack of a drain plug will at least prevent the tub from filling up, decreasing the possibility of drowning.

11. Cover sharp edges on bath and shower fixtures

Most bath faucets and handles are just the right height for injuring little ones’ heads, so it’s imperative to cover them up.

Purchase and install spout and handle covers, and ensure all other sharp edges are similarly childproofed.

12. Turn on a night light

For kids old enough to go potty on their own, a night light can make a nighttime bathroom visit much safer.

Motion sensor night lights are a great way to keep electricity consumption low, protect sleepy eyes from glaringly bright lights and provide just enough light to prevent trips or falls.

13. Secure trash cans

Cotton balls soaked in nail polish remover, old medicine, discarded razor blades — our bathroom trash cans are brimming with dangerous items.

Hide your trash can within locked cabinets, purchase a childproof can, or simply do away with having a bathroom trash can altogether.

14. Research all baby bath products

Products like bath seats might seem like a great idea, but experts report an average of seven deaths per year from such items.

Before purchasing bath products for your little one, do plenty of research and stay up to date on all CPSC recalls.

15. Research all soaps, bath bombs, bubble baths and lotions

The bath aisle is full of tempting products that look and smell amazing and can provide a ton of entertainment to little ones at bath time.

But those products could contain irritating, harmful ingredients.

According to poison.org, the fragrances and dyes within these products have been known to cause allergic dermatitis. They also frequently contain sodium, which, when consumed in excessive amounts, can cause “dangerous body-wide effects such as confusion, coma and muscle weakness.”

Thus, it’s important to thoroughly read and research products’ ingredients and clear their use with your child’s doctor.

16. Close and lock the door

In the end, nothing can keep your kids safer in the bathroom than preventing any and all unsupervised access.

The best way to do this is to install a childproof lock on the door and always close and lock the door behind you.

While it may not be the most convenient, such safety measures could prevent your kids from becoming a tragic statistic.

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If you found this story insightful, read about how to safely babyproof your child’s nursery.

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