Even when you’re weary at the end of a long day or scrambling to get another busy day underway, always bring your A-game when it comes to your young child’s bath time.
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You and your child can play and bond during tub time, but it’s important to plan ahead and pay attention to protect your child from bad bath time habits that can cause slips, falls, burns or even drowning.
Pediatrician Maria Tang, MD, discusses eight bath-related hazards and how you can put your child’s safety first.
1. Leaving your child unattended
It’s sometimes tempting to step away to retrieve a forgotten item or grab your phone when your child is in the tub. But leaving your child alone for even a few seconds is too long, Dr. Tang says.
Before you draw your child’s bath, take time to make sure everything you need is within arm’s reach.
2. Offering open access to bathrooms
While most parents realize tubs filled with water are dangerous during bath time, the whole bathroom can actually pose a risk to your young child any time of day.
“Tubs and even toilets can pose a drowning risk for young children, so it’s important to restrict your child’s access to bathrooms by installing locks on bathroom doors and adding latches on toilets,” Dr. Tang says.
3. Ignoring slipping hazards
Tub surfaces are slick when wet, which increases your child’s chances of slipping or falling. Counteract slippery tubs with no-slip strips. They’re easy to install on the tub’s bottom.
You might also install a cover that fits over the side of your tub. It can make it easier for your child to get in and out without mishap.
Dr. Tang suggests covering hard metal handles, faucets and spouts with silicone covers. This can soften the blow if your child bumps his or her head or slips and falls against them.
4. Failing the water temperature test
Hot bath water can scald or burn your child’s skin, which is more sensitive than adult skin.
To eliminate the risk of burns, adjust your water heater, if possible, so the temperature never exceeds 120 degrees Fahrenheit, Dr. Tang says.
It’s also a good idea to test the water temperature yourself before placing your child in the tub.
“Make sure to test the water on your wrist or elbow instead of just your fingers because your fingers can handle hotter temperatures,” she advises.
5. Overfilling the tub
There is nothing more fun than a bath that’s filled to the brim. But using more than a few inches of water is dangerous for young children. Kids can drown in as little as 3 or 4 inches of water if their face gets submerged, Dr. Tang cautions.
6. Going all-in with bubbles and sponges
A bubbly bath, though fun, can irritate your child’s sensitive skin. So skip the bubbles and opt for kid-friendly body wash or shampoo in an unscented or sensitive-skin variety.
Using a washcloth is a great way to help clean your child — but beware of sponges. They are a haven for bacteria if they don’t dry out completely between baths, Dr. Tang says.
7. Depending on bath seats or rings
While they might seem convenient, bath seats or rings offer a false sense of security — you can’t count on them to prevent drowning.
8. Throwing in any old toy
While toys are a fun addition to bath time, it’s important to select the right ones.
Skip toys that are too small, as they can pose a choking risk. And beware of bath toys that can retain water. Like sponges, they are a breeding ground for bacteria if they aren’t completely drained and dried after each bath, Dr. Tang says.
Follow her tips to counter your bad bath time habits and offer a safe and enjoyable experience for your child.