Photos and Words By Brittany Carlson
Bath time in our house is a favorite part of our routine. For me, it signals a winding down after a long day, that I’ve almost made it to those few treasured hours of kid-free time with my husband before bed. For my kids, it means a time to relax and get ready for sleep, while having fun splashing around.
I love putting both of my sons, three-year-old Adam* and six-month-old James*, in the tub together (James in a baby bath seat). James loves watching his big brother splash and play and Adam loves to talk to his little brother. It’s so sweet to see the two of them interact together while I’m washing them.
Since January is Bath Safety Month, it was a good time to remind myself of some of the hazards bathrooms present for young children and make sure I’m keeping our special routine safe for my kids.
According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, “more than 43,000 children receive emergency treatment for bathtub- and shower-related injuries” each year, with more than half occurring to “children younger than 5 years old.” This is a scary statistic, especially since most of these injuries can be avoided with more supervision at bath time.
Young children are at high risk for drowning, burns and falls, which are the main types of bath- and shower-related injuries (Nationwide Children’s).
The number one tip I found for preventing these injuries is to never leave children alone in a bath or shower. I know the temptation to go get something or take care of something else when your children are contained can be high, but the risks just aren’t worth it.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends putting everything you need for your child’s bath within arm’s reach before starting the bath, and wrapping your child in a towel and taking him/her with you if you must leave the bathroom for any reason. The site also states that parents should never leave children in the tub unattended even in a bath seat or ring, since these are meant to help with bathing but “will not prevent drowning” (healthychildren.org).
The Australian parenting website, raisingchildren.net.au, adds that “drowning is the major cause of death for children under five years,” and that young children can drown quickly and noiselessly. The website recommends removing distractions such as cell phones during bath time by turning them off.
Following drowning, scalding injuries are next on the list of bath time hazards. Hot water burns are the “most common and most severe type of childhood burn,” according to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The website reminds parents to check the water temperature before putting children in the tub. Personally, I use a bath toy that indicates whether the water temperature is too hot, too cold or ideal.
I’ve learned that if the water feels hot enough for me to take a bath in, it’s too hot for the boys. In fact, the safe temperature for a child’s bath is between 98 and 100 degrees Farenheit, (97 for a newborn) while adults take baths at 105-108 degrees Farenheit (raisingchildren.au.net). Several bath safety websites advocate for setting water heaters to never exceed 120 degrees Farenheit, or installing an “anti-scald valve” to prevent water temperature from going about 120 degrees (Nationwide Children’s Hospital, healthychildren.org, MedlinePlus).
Slips and Falls
Slips and falls are next on the list of hazards to children in a tub. To prevent slips and falls, the most common advice for parents is to install a slip-resistant mat, and to cover sharp edges (Nationwide Children’s Hospital, healthychildren.org, MedlinePlus). I’ve found that non-slip bath mats tend to get moldy, so I set the mat out to dry after a bath, and regularly clean it as well. In terms of cushioning sharp edges in the bathroom, my favorite tool is the faucet cover (ours is a cute little whale).
Besides drowning, burns and falls, the bathroom can present other dangers to children if they are unattended. These include the risk of children getting into medicines, getting injured by electrical appliances, or falling into an open toilet seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends locking bathroom doors, installing toilet lid locks, and keeping medicines locked in out-of-reach cabinets. Parents should also keep appliances such as hair dryers, radios, curling irons and razors unplugged and stored elsewhere during bath time or any time children are in the bathroom (healthychildren.org, MedlinePlus).
Since I have a toddler who loves to go into the bathroom now that he is potty trained, I keep all electrical appliances in our bathroom (protected by child-locked door), and lock all of the cabinets in the kids’ bathroom. Even with all of the cabinets locked and nothing in the bathroom to play with except a child’s potty seat/stool, I’ve still witnessed my three-year-old moving the stool to the bathroom counter, getting in the sink (and, I’m ashamed to admit, covering his face in toothpaste before I noticed what he was doing).
Bathrooms can be very dangerous places for toddlers and infants, especially if left to their own devices. The good news is that most of the injuries that happen to children in bathrooms can be prevented simply by having a vigilant adult in the room.
The bottom line is that bath time can be a wonderful family routine, but it should be just that: a FAMILY routine. Make sure your kids are safe at bath time by staying in the room with them, and if you have to leave, taking them with you.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy
Brittany Carlson is a lifelong lover of words and all things chocolate. She is an Army wife and now has two sons, Adam (3) and James (6 months). She has written for several Army community newspapers, including the Stuttgart Citizen (Germany), Fort Leonard Wood Guidon (Missouri) and Fort Belvoir Eagle (Virginia). Brittany holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She and her family live in upstate NY.