A fireplace provides your home with warmth and a cozy ambiance during the colder months. But a home with a baby requires extra safety precautions to prevent injury or death. Babies, especially toddlers, are curious about their surroundings and often touch, grab and climb onto things that can hurt them. This makes it especially important to create a safe environment around your home's fireplace.
Before baby-proofing your fireplace, get down on your hands and knees and examine the fireplace from your baby's perspective. Remove any tools you have -- such as pokers, tongs and the stands they rest in -- to prevent your baby from pulling them down and hurting himself. Keep your flue closed when not in use to prevent insects, birds and other animals from entering your home. If you rarely use your fireplace, be sure it does not become a home to bees, wasps or hornets. Stings can be fatal to babies, and when stinging insects swarm, they can also kill adults.
Soften Hard Edges
If you have a raised hearth fireplace, prevent injuries by lining the edges of it with a flameproof bumper. Babies learning to crawl and walk are at risk of falling or cutting themselves on sharp, hard edges. The bumpers should be at least 5/8 of an inch thick and also nontoxic.
Wood fireplaces pose a risk beyond the hearth, as the wood snaps, pops and sends sparks jumping from logs. Regular curtain screens do not prevent curious hands from exploring the flames and won't prevent baby from falling into the fire. Get a sturdy upright screen you can attach to your hearth that extends outward. A better option is fireplace door locks. Babies can not only get dirty from the soot left in the fireplace, but they can also choke on it. Have your fireplace and chimney cleaned professionally before you use it during the cooler seasons. This removes excess buildup and can prevent accidental fires due to residue.
Gas fireplaces present different dangers than wood-burning fireplaces. According to the Madison and Dane County Public Health Department, the glass doors on gas fireplaces can reach up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit in as little as six minutes. Toddlers just learning to walk are at increased risk of second- and third-degree burns when they use the glass barriers to steady themselves. Second-degree burns take approximately three weeks to heal, while third-degree burns require skin grafts. After you extinguish your fire, the glass doors can take up to 45 minutes to cool down to a safe temperature. For this reason, it is best to set up an extra barrier around the fireplace itself to keep children a safe distance away from the fire and its glass doors. Another option is to get heat-resistant glass doors. These still get warm but do not pose a serious burn risk to babies and toddlers.
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