Drowning Hazards Inside Your Home

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We know that a pool can be dangerous. But experts say just because we are in the middle of winter, you should not let your guard down.

There are plenty of things in your home that can be a drowning hazard, The Early Show consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen reports.

His mother calls him a "miracle."

Tolebi Jafferally is a happy and healthy 3-year-old. He's come a long way from the intensive care unit at Texas Children's Hospital where doctors told his parents he would never be the same, and might have permanent brain damage.

"I mean, I am so happy that he is OK today," says his mother, Shuree Jafferally. "But when you have someone telling you that, it is very difficult."

Last spring, Jafferally was tending to her youngest daughter who was crying. She didn't know Tolebi had wandered through the open gate in the backyard.

He fell into the family's hot tub, which had just been shut off. In a few feet of water, he almost drowned. Jafferally says she was gone only three minutes. She thought her mother was watching Tolebi.

"I was in shock," Jafferally says. "It can happen so quickly."

Tolebi is lucky - he spent 8 days in ICU. He pulled through and is now doing fine.

But hundreds of babies die each year because of drowning. While a swimming pool is an obvious danger, experts say children can drown in as little as an inch of water. A toilet, a bucket, a bathtub can all be danger zones.

Dr. Joan Shook says, "It's just a couple of minutes is all it takes for a family to have a tragedy to live with for the rest of their lives."

Dr. Shook is chief of Emergency Medicine at Texas Children's Hospital. She says children are top heavy -- that's why it's easy for them to tip over into bodies of water. And it's difficult for them to get out.

Dr. Shook explains, "The baby gets face down in the water and then doesn't have either the brain power to pull himself out of the water, nor the muscular control and coordination to pull himself out of the water."

Hal Stratton, head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, says parents should never leave children alone near any kind of water - even if it's for just a second.

Stratton says, "These drownings almost always virtually occur when the parent is not in attendance. And is not tending to the child."

More children drown in bathtubs than any other product in the home. The CPSC says never leave a child unattended in a tub, even while it's filling up

"An inch, a half-an-inch is enough for a child to drown in a tub," Stratton says.

An instructional video shows: If you have to leave, take the child with you. And don't assume that those baby bath seats will keep your child upright.

An animated demonstration shows the danger of bath seats. They can easily tip over - forcing the baby underwater. Babies can also slip or climb out of them.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says these seats should only be used with strict supervision.

"You should never use a bathseat as a babysitter," Stratton says. "A bathseat is a convenience device to help the caregiver bathe the child."

Experts say perhaps the most overlooked drowning hazards in the home are toilets and buckets.

They've killed children as old as three. Even a small amount of liquid can be deadly if a child falls in head first.

After using a bucket, make sure you empty it, and store it where children cannot reach it.
And keep your toilet lid down to prevent access. Use a lock to hold the lid in place.
You can also lock the bathroom from the outside, so children can't walk in on their own.

As the Jafferally's found out, hot tubs can be just as dangerous as swimming pools. If you have a cover, make sure it is locked in place when the hot tub is not in use. And lock the door to the gate, if you have one that leads to the spa.

Shuree Jafferally says even with these safe guards, supervision is key.

Jafferally notes, "You can have the safety net; you can safe guard your children; have the locks; you just have to be with them all the time. You can't turn your back. It's just not worth it.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission also has a warning about landscaping ponds and fountains.

They are very popular, but they can also pose a risk to children who might be playing in the yard.