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THE SAFETY ZONE | JERRY HICKS

Safety First Is Rule for Bathroom

January 03, 2000|JERRY HICKS

Name the room in your house where you might have the most bacteria.

You should have said the bathroom, especially if you have a carpeted bathroom.

Government and health officials have declared January National Bathroom Safety Month, and here's a suggestion high on their list: If your bathroom has carpet, get rid of it.

"Your bathroom carpeting can turn into a breeding ground for bacteria when moisture is trapped beneath it," said Peggy Payne, director of health education for Universal Care, a major Southern California health care provider. "To avoid falling victim to illness and other germ-related infections, remove the carpeting and replace it with tile or linoleum." Bathroom safety is no small matter. Last year more than 200,000 bathroom-related injuries were reported to hospital emergency rooms in the U.S. Also, nearly 9,000 bathroom-related fatalities were reported.

"The bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house," writes occupational therapist Guillermo Lopez for Good Health Internet magazine.

Most of those fatalities came from bathtub falls. But nearly 500 deaths were unattended children drowning in the bathtub. Many of the falls occurred because someone tried to use a towel rod for a grab bar.

"Towel rods just aren't meant to support a person's weight," insists Lopez.

Here are some other suggestions from the experts for better bathroom safety:

* Install numerous bathtub safety devices, especially grab bars. If not for yourself, for any potential visitors.

* Make sure your tub has a nonskid surface, even if it's just safety strips.

* NEVER leave a baby or toddler unattended in the bathtub--even if it's just to run and check something on the stove, or to answer the telephone.

* Make your bathroom cabinets childproof. Most of us keep in our bathrooms cleaning products that contain poisons.

* No space heaters in the bathroom. There's just too much water around to produce potential electric shocks. People might also suffer leg burns by running into them.

* If you have a baby in the family, reduce your hot water heater from the usual 150 degrees down to 120 degrees. It reduces the risk of accidental water burns.

* Don't go to the bathroom in the dark in the middle of the night. You'll be disoriented and risk injury. Light your hallway, light the bathroom immediately.

* Secure all sharp-edge objects. I learned the hard way that safety razors are not 100% safe. Not long ago, my 7-year-old daughter decided it was time to shave her face and legs in the bathtub, and grabbed up a safety razor I had carelessly left within reach. It left her with several cuts and left me eaten up with guilt.

And here's another instance where I confess I've been guilty: When you have babies or small children, never have a lock on the inside of a bathroom door. They like to lock it for fun, then you're helpless to assist them if there's trouble.

About that bathroom carpeting: Take it from me, the experts are right. Christmas Day, we discovered a pipe leak in our carpeted bathroom. When we lifted up the carpet to try to dry it, we discovered that the mat underneath the carpet was, well, a mess so filthy it left us shaking our heads. It was the quintessential breeding ground for germs, one we decided we couldn't live with another day.

*

Jerry Hicks' column appears Monday and Thursday. Readers may reach Hicks by calling (714) 564-1049 or e-mail to jerry.hicks@latimes.com.

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