SPLISH SPLASH SAFETY
Splish Splash! Most children love taking baths! The toys and the bubbles are so fun. And warm water is so relaxing for all of us. It can also be a great part of a bedtime routine for most children. January is National Bath Safety Month. Learning how to keep your child safe in the bath is a priority before becoming a parent, and there are definitely tips and tricks we can all learn as our children grow and change.
Drowning is 2nd leading cause of death in children under the age of 14. This statistic includes infants and toddlers who have drowned in a bathtub. Most drownings in children under the age of 1 take place in a bathtub. A child can drown in water that is only 2 inch in depth.
Supervision is the key to drowning prevention. For infant and toddlers, supervision must be “Touch Supervision”. This means you can easily reach out and touch your child while they are in the tub. This applies to children under the age of 5. Your young child needs your full, undivided attention so please ignore incoming calls and the doorbell during bath time or remove your child if you must answer.
By 5 to 6 years of age (this is dependent on your child and their maturity level), direct supervision may not be necessary. Even though you may be able to look away and not be within touch, you should be close to the tub or bathroom and definitely be within talking distance.
Infant bathtubs, bath seats, or bath rings are NOT safety devices. They are convenience items that help you position your child. They provide no function to deter drowning.
When bath time is over, it is important to empty the tub immediately. This also applies to sinks, buckets, or infant tubs that you may have used to for bathing.
Other measures you can do to reduce drowning in bathrooms include using childproof tub and sink knobs and use a removable or childproof plug in the tub. Bath time is fun and water loving kids may seek that out on their own. We do not want them to be able to turn on the water or plug the tub. Additionally, to ensure safety in the bathroom, make sure the toilet lid is down and the bathroom door is shut.
Warm baths are dreamy, but a hot bath can be dangerous. Preventing scalding is important for children because they have skin that is thinner than adults. This means their skin burns more easily than ours does. At 140 degrees, a child’s skin will develop a 3rd degree burn in 3 seconds. And depending on their age, they may not be able to articulate the water is too warm.
To prevent scalding, we need to start by adjusting water at the level of the water heater. The system should be set to not heat water over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Some hot water heaters are automatically set to this temperature, but it is smart to double check. Some houses built after the mid-1980s have antiscald devices built into the plumbing. These devices stop waterflow if the temperature reaches 115 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
After you fill your child’s bath, confirm the water temperature with your wrist or a bath thermometer. There are great easy to read bath thermometers that visually show you (by lights) if the water is too hot or too cool.
Slippery tubs and wet floors in bathroom may result in slipping and injury. To reduce the risk of your child slipping either from a sitting position or when standing or moving in the tub, apply nonslip accessories to your bathtub. There are non-slip tub mats or non-slip appliques you can apply to your tub. You can also you a towel to line the bottom of the bathtub to reduce slipperiness. Make sure to also use a non-slip bathmat right outside of the tub and quickly wipe up water that ends up on the floor from splashing or dripping to reduce the risk of slipping.
Children can also become injured from hitting hard surfaces. One such surface, which is hard and sharp, is the faucet. A faucet covering can help soften the faucet and prevent injury. The sides of tubs are also very hard and falling onto it can cause head, dental, or bodily injury. Anti-slip matting can help with this. Pacing a folded dry towel over the bath edge can help diffuse any impact if your child falls. Also start early to encourage your child to stay sitting in the bathtub. Infants and toddlers who are unsteady on their feet are at increased risk of falling on a sloped and slippery surfaced.
Adults know water and electricity don’t mix, but children don’t! Keep your child safe from electrocution. Your bathroom outlets should be GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupters). These are special outlets that trip if they detect a change in electrical current, potentially due to water, and it stops power to the device. Also, make sure all outlets are capped or have a child protective device installed. All electrical appliance should be stored out of reach and never stored plugged into an outlet.
MOLDS AND BACTERIA
Children love playing in the bath and it can be a fun and relaxing activity. But bath toys can hold mold and they can promote bacterial growth. If you are playing with a toy that is giving off black flecks, that is mold! If a toy looks moldy, throw it away. If it a special toy or a toy that may easily be cleaned, you can soak the toy overnight in a container that contains ¾ cup bleach in 1 gallon of water. Then let the toy air dry completely.
Frequently inspect toys for any mold or bacteria. To help prevent mold or bacterial growth, make sure to rinse toys as soap can promote bacterial growth by providing nutrients it uses to grow. Once toys are rinsed, lay the toys out to air dry. Toys should be rinsed and dried after every bath. Also try to purchase toys that are solid plastic, do not have holes, or that can be opened completely to dry.
Infants usually get their first bath in the hospital. Once home they do not need frequent bathing (that will come once they are self-feeding and making a mess!) If they do need a bath, only do a sponge bath until their umbilical cord stump has fallen off and healed.
For a sponge bath, you will want to move quickly to avoid chilling. Use warm water and clothes. Instead of using a tub, you can use a thickly folded towel that has been warmed lightly in the dryer. This provides padding and warmth while you are gentle wiping them down.
Once your baby is ready for a full bath, most people find using an infant tub or sling. These are smaller tubs or inserts that are mobile and fit an infant more comfortably. They often have molding in them to hold your infant in a seated position. They can be used in a larger bathtub, a sink or on a flat surface.
Before bathing your baby, make sure you have all the items you will need for the bath including wash clothes, a dry towel, and any soaps that you may be using. If you have a baby boy, we advise an extra washcloth to place over their penis. The warm bath may stimulate them to urinate and a washcloth stops the urine from spraying elsewhere! It is also helpful to have extra wash clothes or small towels to use to help position your infant, especially in the newborn days. Rolling them up to provide trunk support and one flat under their trunk can help them from slipping down in the tub. These items should all be in arms ready of the bathing area. And remember, you never walk away from an infant in a tub. We use “touch supervision” at this age.
It is also important to keep your baby warm during bath time as we don’t want water levels too high and they can chill quickly. Frequently pour warm water over them during the bath to keep them warm. You can wash their hair in the bath, but babies lose a lot of warmth through their head. An easy way to keep them warm is to bathe their body first. Once you finish their body, take them out of the tub; wrap them in a dry hooded towel, and fold the hood down. Then while holding them “football” style; wash their hair over the rub and rinse. Once you are done, fold the hood over their head. This keeps them warm, reduces the time their head is wet, AND gives you better control over soap and water getting close to their eyes. Most babies LOVE this method. It is like a spa day or head massage! And it can help if you need to scrub a bit longer if they have cradle cap.
While not necessary, there are products available that can help make bath time easier or safer.
Bath thermometers are easy ways to see if the bath temperature is too warm or cold. Some come with flashing lights that signal appropriate temperatures.
A mat helps prevent slipping on the slick tub surface.
A faucet cover provides a soft covering to the hard tub faucet.
INFANT BATH SEATS
There are a few options for infant seats. Some you place in the sink and some can be used in the tub or another flat surface. These are NOT safety devices, rather they help with infant positioning to make bathing easier.
This elbow rest makes bathing your child easier but also provides a cushion on the hard tub edge. You can also use a thick folded towel.
Children’s Health Care of Newburyport, Massachusetts and Haverhill is a pediatric healthcare practice providing care for families across the North Shore, Merrimack Valley, southern New Hampshire, and the Seacoast regions. The Children’s Health Care team includes pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners who provide comprehensive pediatric health care for children, including newborns, toddlers, school aged children, adolescents, and young adults. Our child-centered and family-focused approach covers preventative and urgent care, immunizations, and specialist referrals. Our services include an on-site pediatric nutritionist, special needs care coordinator, and social workers. We also have walk-in appointments available at all of our locations for acute sick visits. Please visit chcmass.com where you will find information about our pediatric doctors, nurse practitioners, as well as our hours and services.
Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.