1. Parenting

6 Things Grandparents Must Know to Keep Grandchildren Safe

Learn About Little-Known Hazards That Put Kids at Risk


Grandparents sometimes feel that their grandchildren are over-protected, but every grandparent should know about these very real dangers that can put youngsters at risk. 

1. Hot dogs cause more choking deaths than any other food.

Photo © Darryl Leniuk | Photodisc | Getty

Young children are often fed hot dogs whole or sliced into little rounds. Parents and grandparents may not know that hot dogs are serious choking hazards. In fact, one doctor has called the hot dog "a perfect plug for a child's airway." It's a serious enough problem that a committee of the American Association of Pediatrics has called for a "redesign" of the hot dog. Until that happens, hot dogs should be cut into smaller pieces. Ditto for whole grapes. Other problematic foods include hard candy, nuts and seeds, raw carrots, apples, popcorn, chunks of peanut butter, marshmallows, chewing gum and sausages. In the United States, a child dies approximately every five days due to choking on food.

Learn more about choking hazards for children.

2. Window blinds can be deadly.

The windows of your home may hold hidden hazards for your grandchildren. About 20 children a year suffer death or injury from becoming entangled in window covering cords. Often these accidents involve cords that have been tied up or otherwise altered in an attempt to make them safe. Grandparents' homes may be more dangerous than others, because they may be less likely to have updated to cordless. For more information, see the GoCordless campaign coordinated by SelectBlinds.com, the first window covering company to go completely cordless. Other good sources of information include Parents for Window Blind Safety, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Window Covering Safety Council.

Learn more about how to prevent injuries from window coverings.

3. Grandparents need to be vaccinated against whooping cough.

Before your grandchild is born, you should be vaccinated against whooping cough, also known as pertussis, which presents a serious threat to children. Most deaths occur in infants who have not yet been vaccinated. Grandparents who contract the disease may have only mild symptoms, but infants are frequently misdiagnosed and may die in spite of receiving medical treatment. The pertussis vaccine is usually given as part of the Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diptheria and pertussis. Adults over 19 who have never received a Tdap booster should get one, and grandparents who are unsure of their status should be vaccinated just to be sure.

Learn more about symptoms of whooping cough.

4. Babies should never be put to sleep on their stomachs.

When many grandparents were having babies, we were taught to put them to sleep on their stomachs, to reduce choking hazards. Today parents are taught to put their babies to sleep on their backs, because stomach sleeping is associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Sometimes grandparents and other caregivers aren't well-informed about the risk factors for SIDS. Besides stomach sleeping, other risk factors include blankets and bedding near a baby's face. Some studies have implicated bed-sharing, especially when the person co-sleeping is someone other than a parent.

Learn more about grandparents and the risk of SIDS.

5. Modern furniture and appliances are tip-over dangers.

Grandparents don't typically climb on their furniture, or use furniture to pull up on. They also seldom pull out multiple drawers at one time. They may, therefore, be unaware that they own pieces that can easily be tipped over on a grandchild, who may do any and all of these things. Anti-tip brackets and straps come with some furniture or can be purchased and installed. Television sets are especially prone to tipping, so think carefully about placement of your sets, and keep cords out of reach.

Learn more about furniture tip-over dangers.

6. Children can be forgotten in cars.

Of all the tragic stories related to child injuries and deaths, the most heartbreaking are those of children forgotten in cars. Although it's hard to believe, it is possible to forget that you have a child in the car with you. It's more likely to occur when there is a change in routine, such as a grandparent being in charge of a child. Rear-facing car seats, which make infants harder to see, are also a factor. One method for preventing this tragedy is to put one's purse, briefcase or cell phone beside the baby. Another is to stick a reminder on the dash. Also, children should be removed from the car first, before groceries or parcels.

Learn more about the dangers of children being left in cars.

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