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General Safety Tips

As pediatricians, we cannot overemphasize the importance of safety in maintaining the health and well-being of the children in our care. The vast majority of children will have little or no serious medical illness throughout their youth. However, injuries and accidents represent major causes of disability and death in young people. Susceptibility to accidental injury is highly age-dependent.

Suffocation Risks

  • Newborns should only be placed on the side or back to sleep (never on the stomach), to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
  • Babies should not sleep with pillows or heavy blankets until 12 months of age.


  • Never warm baby bottles in the microwave or remove items from the microwave when holding a baby.
  • Do not bathe babies under running water, and set hot water temperatures no higher than 120° F.
  • Turn handles of stove-top pots and pans inward and do not consume hot drinks while holding a child.
  • Cover electrical outlets and remove electrical wires from play areas.

Falls & Head Trauma

  • Infants must not be left alone on a bed or changing table, even for an instant.
  • Always secure the infant’s harness when in an infant seat (or stroller) and do not place infant seats on countertops or tables.
  • Lower the baby’s crib mattress to the lowest level at six months of age.
  • Install stairway gates well in advance of an infant’s ability to crawl.
  • The use of walkers is ill-advised. They are a source of potentially serious or fatal head trauma, and do not promote walking ability.
  • Trampolines are utterly unsafe and should not be used in home or recreational settings.

Ingestions & Choking

  • Keep the Poison Control Phone Number next to your phone: (800) 222-1222.
  • All medicines and household cleaners should be locked out of reach.
  • Small toys and parts, jewelry, buttons, coins, hardware and Christmas ornaments all represent serious choking hazards.
  • Avoid small, round, hard foods; do not allow a child to run with a utensil or lollipop in the mouth.

Water Safety

  • Any collection of water, whether a partly-filled kitchen bucket, a toilet, bathtub, washing machine, or backyard lake or pool represents a genuine drowning risk.
  • Install appropriate gates, fences, alarms and covers on swimming pools. Even children who swim reliably should always be attended by an adult.

Automobile Safety

  • An age- and weight-appropriate car seat properly installed in the back seat of a motor vehicle is crucial. In many municipalities, local police or fire personnel will install your car seat gratis.
  • When leaving a parked car in your driveway, turn the car around to point the front outward, to avoid backing up in the vicinity of toddlers and small children who may be out of the driver’s line of sight.
  • Children should ride in the back seat until the 13th birthday.
  • Teenage drivers must be reminded repeatedly about the responsibilities and risks of motor vehicles. Aside from safe driving courses and DWI education, new drivers should be taught that driving is a privilege.
    • For the first 6 months after obtaining a driver license, may only drive with:
      • Parents or legal guardian at least one of whom holds a valid driver license
      • Licensed driving instructor
      • Person providing instruction who is at least 20 years old, has held a license for at least 4 years, with no suspensions during the last 4 years
    • For the second 6 months, may drive with the above people and may also drive with immediate family (e.g., brothers, and sisters).