Gates placed at the top of stairs or in doorways are used to keep toddlers away from hazardous areas of the home. Accordion gates, which open to form diamond-shaped patterns with wide V's at the top, can trap a baby's head and have resulted in strangulation deaths. In January 1985, gate manufacturers halted production of these gates, but there are still an estimated 15 million of them in use. Mesh gates also can be dangerous because a toddler's fingers can become trapped in them.
What to look for:
- Look for a hardware-mounted gate that attaches to the door frame without any openings to trap fingers or necks.
- Pressure-mounted gates should not be used between rooms of different levels or at the top of stairs; children can dislodge them and take a tumble. Remember to place the pressure bar away from the child.
- Gates that swing out should never be used at the top of stairways.
- There should be no more than 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) between the floor and the gate bottom to prevent a child from slipping underneath.
- Nonflexible vertical slats or rods should be no more than 2 3/8 inches (6 centimeters) apart.
- Check for sharp edges and protrusions that could hurt a toddler's hands.
- Avoid gates with structures that could give a child a foothold for climbing.
- Discontinue using the gate when the child is about 2 years old (the gate should be no less than three quarters of the child's height).
SAFETY NOTE: Keep large toys away from the gate to prevent a child from using them to climb over. Check to make sure the gate has an ASTM/JPMA certification (American Society for Testing and Materials, and Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association). Only models with this certification will be guaranteed to abide by the safety standards.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: November 2007
Originally reviewed by: Barbara P. Homeier, MD
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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