Health and Safety Issues
Accidents are the number one cause of injury and death for children.
Illinois law requires that children 8 years old and younger use a child restraint system (car safety seat or booster seat, depending on age and weight); children over the age of 8 must wear seatbelts.
A child safety seat is the key to preventing injury and death. When selecting a car seat, carefully check the manufacturer’s limits for age and weight.
- Check the car seat label for the manufacturing date. If the car seat is older than 10 years, it should be discarded. Some makers recommend that seats only be used for up to 5 years. Check with the manufacturer if you have questions.
- Do not reuse a car safety seat that has been involved in an accident.
- Check for car safety seat recalls through the U.S. Department of Transportation or call their hotline (800-424-9393).
- Various organizations offer information about selection and the correct installation of car safety seats: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the American Academy of Pediatrics or SeatCheck.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics and various other groups offer smartphone apps that help parents select the proper car seat.
- SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. lists car seats suitable for special needs children. See their publication “Automobile Restraints for Children with Special Needs” (PDF)
- Children under three should not play with small toys or toys with small parts or pieces. Remember to read labels for age recommendations.
- If a toy can slide through the inside of a toilet paper roll, it’s too small for a baby or preschooler.
- Do not keep soft toys or objects in your infant’s bassinet or crib.
- Children should always be seated and supervised while eating.
- Avoid small round or hard pieces of food that can cause choking.
- Children should be supervised while playing with latex balloons.
- Regularly check your floors for buttons, coins, and other small objects.
- Parents and child care providers ideally should know rescue procedures and CPR. Your local Fire Department offers classes in CPR.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on each floor of your home. Carbon monoxide gas is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and poisonous.
- Check batteries and detectors twice a year. To help remember, check them when you change clocks for daylight savings time.
- Young children have thinner skin that burns more easily. Turn the hot water heater temperature down to 120 degrees.
- If burned, put the injured area in cold water, bandage loosely and call your child’s doctor.
- The websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have useful information about vaccinations.
- The CDC’s recommended vaccine schedule is revised every year and is available from your health care provider or from the CDC’s website.
- The Oak Park Public Health Department provides immunizations for under- and uninsured residents under the age of 18. Call 708-358-5491 for information.
- Lead comes from two main sources in the home: water from lead pipes and dust from lead paint. Make sure that the lead levels in your home are normal. Home testing kits that allow you to test for lead dust are available at local hardware stores.
- Research shows that lead dust in soil can cause problems for kids living in urban areas. Have your children remove their shoes and wash their hands after playing outside.
- If you are rehabbing an older home, review guidelines and procedures from the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Talk to your child’s doctor about testing your child’s blood levels for lead. Many school districts require a lead test before entering Kindergarten.
- There have been cases where high amounts of lead or toxic chemicals are found in children’s toys. Stay informed about product recalls and other children’s safety issues. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a list of recalled items.
- If you have a poisoning emergency, call Poison Control immediately (800-222-1222) or call 911 if the person is unconscious or has difficulty breathing.
- Keep poison hotline numbers posted at home and programmed into your cell phone.
- Many poisons are tasteless and don’t smell.
- Keep all medicines, vitamins, and household cleaning products out of the sight and reach of children.
- The Illinois Poison Center provides information on how to avoid common poisons and what to do if your child ate something poisonous.
- Visit Healthy Children, a website for parents from the American Academy of Pediatrics, to find detailed information on many topics related to children’s health and safety, such as allergens, car seats, childproofing your house, first aid, lead poisoning, and water safety.
- Sign up for regular email alerts about recalls for children’s toys and other products from the Consumer Protection Safety Commission.
- There are also a number of smartphone apps that help you stay informed about product safety recalls.
- Never leave a baby unattended in a high place such as a changing table, bed or sofa, even in a bouncy seat or car seat.
- Get on your hands and knees to explore your home and any safety risks from your child’s perspective.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that families do not keep a loaded gun in a home where children live or visit. If you choose to keep a gun, keep it locked and store ammunition separately from the gun.