Baby-proofing the bathroom

Consumer Reports News: May 12, 2008 09:08 AM

Babies and toddlers love water, which makes the bathroom a big draw. They may also accompany or follow you in there several times a day, which gives them ample opportunity to case the joint for fun things to do when you’re not looking. To keep your child safe from bathroom risks, try these tactics:

Set boundaries. Keep bathroom doors securely closed or blocked off with a gate. You may also want to cover the inside door lock with duct tape to keep your child from locking you out. Install doorknobs that have a hole on the outside through which you can push a thin rod or screwdriver to disengage the lock in case your child gets locked inside the bathroom.

Be hands-on at bathtime. When using a baby bathtub, always keep a hand on your baby. As we’ve mentioned, never use a bath seat or bath ring; there have been numerous reports of babies drowning in them when their parents left them unattended, even momentarily. Never leave the room to answer the phone when your child is taking a bath—let your answering machine take your calls. You don’t want any distractions during bath time. Before using your regular bathtub for bathing a toddler, attach rubber strips to the surface to prevent slipping. Get a cover for the bathtub’s spout to protect your child from its heat-conducting metal and hard edges. A bonus: Many come in fun animal shapes.

Remove electrical devices. Store all electrical devices, such as curling irons and hair dryers, in a high cupboard outside the bathroom.

Secure the medicine cabinet. Install a lock on the medicine cabinet well out of your child’s reach. You can also store medications in a childproof, locked box kept on a high shelf outside the bathroom. (The high humidity in a bathroom makes it a less-than-ideal place to store medicines, anyway.) Put vitamin supplements out of reach, too—iron pills and vitamins containing iron are leading child poisoners. Keep prescription and over-the-counter drugs and any vitamin supplements in their original, child-resistant packaging. Discard expired drugs in their child-resistant packaging; don't just empty the contents in the garbage.

Lock the lid. Toilets pose a risk of drowning to curious infants and toddlers, so install a device to lock the lid of the adult toilet to keep baby out. We tested the KidCo Toilet Seat Lock, $15, which installs in about 10 minutes. A spring-loaded arm swings out over the toilet lid when closed and locks in place. But, of course, adults have to remember to close the lid after use. The design is an improvement over earlier ones we've seen. Children older than 3 or 4 will probably learn how to overcome it, and the lock may not be as effective on padded toilet seats or unconventional toilets.

Also, if you soak cloth diapers, make sure the diaper pail has a tamper-proof lid with a solid locking device to eliminate a drowning hazard. If you use deodorizing tablets, store them out of reach of children. Some can be poisonous if ingested.

See our full report on keeping baby safe in the bathroom for more information. And our report on keeping baby safe discusses childproofing throughout your home.


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