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Baby Safety Devices May Go Underused

Baby Gate and Thermometer for Baby's Bath Water Least Used Safety Items
WebMD Health News

May 1, 2006 -- Parents may want to brush up on baby safety devices.

A new study shows that certain devices -- specifically, baby gates and bath thermometers -- may not be widely used by parents of babies younger than 6 months old.

The study by Winnie Whitaker, MD, and colleagues was presented in San Francisco at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting. Whitaker works at Cincinnati Children's Medical Center.

Whitaker's study surveyed the parents of 140 babies who had their 4-6-month well-child visit at the Pediatric Primary Care Center of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center between November 2002 and September 2004.

The researchers asked the babies' parents about safety devices including car seats, window guards, smoke detectors, baby gates, and bath thermometers.

Most-Used Devices

"Parents reported using window guards, car seats, and smoke detectors more than 60% of the time, and bath thermometers and baby gates less than 25% of the time," the researchers report.

The parents were also asked if they remembered the babies' primary care physician discussing those items during the 4-6-month well-child visit. Three-quarters of the parents remembered hearing the doctor discuss car seats and 54% recalled hearing the doctor talk about smoke detectors.

About a third of the parents (35%) recalled hearing the doctor discuss baby gates, window guards, and bath thermometers during that visit.

Device Advice

The Injury Prevention Program of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends car seats, window guards, baby gates, and smoke detectors for all babies age 0-6 months.

Babies may be able to crawl as early as 6 months, so the AAP advises using gates on stairways starting when babies are less than 6 months old. Window guards should be installed on all windows above the first floor, the AAP notes.

To avoid scalding babies with hot water, the AAP recommends that parents reduce the maximum temperature of their hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bath Thermometers

Bath thermometers aren't specifically recommended on the AAP's safety tip sheet, notes Thomas DeWitt, MD, in an email to WebMD. DeWitt directs the general and community pediatrics division of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

However, "many pediatricians recommend that parents check the temperature of the bath water before bathing their infants if there is any question about the temperature being too hot," DeWitt continues.

"The recommendation to turn down the thermostat on the hot water heater, assuming that they have control over it, is probably the best approach," DeWitt continues. "However, checking the temperature of the hot water a couple of times after doing this to make sure that the heater's thermostat is accurate and working well is a good idea.""

Bath thermometers may also help when parents travel with their children and don't have control of the hot water temperature, DeWitt notes.

The AAP also recommends these other steps to help avoid bath scalds:

  • Test the bath water's temperature on your forearm or the back of your hand before placing your child in the water.
  • When using tap water, always turn the cold water on first, then add hot water. When finished, turn off the hot water first.
  • Never leave children alone in the bathroom for any reason. They are at risk of burnsburns and drowning.

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