The first rule for preventing strangulation is never tie a pacifier, teether, or necklace around a baby's neck. The cord can catch on crib posts, toys, and pieces of furniture, among other things, and strangle a small child. Never tie one to the crib or playpen either. Remove bibs or other clothing tied around your baby's neck before putting him in the crib or playpen.
Before government regulations were issued in 1977, pacifiers posed a serious choking hazard. The rules eliminated much of the problem by requiring pacifiers to be strong enough so that the parts don't separate and to have shields large enough to prevent baby getting the whole pacifier in his mouth.
Pacifiers can deteriorate with age, exposure to food, and sunlight, however, so check them regularly for wear. It's best to replace them every few months.
The chair industry has adopted voluntary guidelines for recliners that limit the size of the opening between the leg rest and the seat (and that require a warning label). If you shop for a new recliner, look for one that meets the voluntary guidelines. If you have an old recliner, don't leave it open.
Furniture and Juvenile Products
A baby can be strangled by anything he can get his head caught in. Common offenders are cribs, bunk beds, and playpens. Others that have proven dangerous on occasion are highchairs, baby carriers, strollers, and baby swings. To refresh your memory, read Crib and Bed Safety, Safe Playpens and Portable Cribs, and Safe Highchairs, for advice on how to use these products properly to minimize the risk.
One item of furniture you might not think about as dangerous is the recliner chair. Yet several children have died or suffered severe brain damage when their heads got caught in the folding mechanism. The CPSC says the typical victim was between 1 and 5 years old and had been left unsupervised. The child climbed onto the leg rest while the chair was in the reclining position, and his weight made the leg rest fold down. The child's head then got caught in the opening between the foot rest and the seat.
Ties That Bind
Cords for window blinds and draperies left dangling are accidents waiting to happen when there are children under age 5 around. The youngest become victims of strangulation most often when their cribs are placed near windows with cords. Kids ages 2 to 4 are most likely to become entangled when they climb onto furniture to look out a window where a cord is hanging loose.
Here are some possible safety fixes:
- With a cord that is a loop, cut it in two pieces above the tassel and add a separate tassel at the end of each cord.
- Install a cleat a few inches below the top of the shade that you can wrap the cord around.
- Use a clamp or clothes pin to keep the cord gathered and out of reach.
- For drapery cords, install a tie-down device.
In 1995, following strangulation deaths associated with drawstrings in clothing, the CPSC developed guidelines with manufacturers to eliminate these strings from outerwear. Clothing makers now use snaps, Velcro, buttons and elastic instead.
The danger is that the drawstrings can get caught on playground equipment, cribs, fences, or other items. Some kids have died or suffered serious injuries when their jacket strings got caught in school bus doors or in escalators.
If you have hand-me-downs such as hooded sweatshirts or jackets made before 1995, remove all the drawstrings. Strings around necks cause the most injuries, but jacket bottoms can be hazardous, too.