Wall heater safety is especially important during the cold weather months.

Wall Heaters and Child Safety

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

The thought of curious little hands touching warm or even hot wall or baseboard heaters can be disconcerting to moms who worry that their toddler or preschooler will get burned. Some wall heaters are hot to the touch and have nearly razor sharp edges that can easily cut little fingers. Even though baseboard heaters generally don't produce scalding heat and pose little fire danger, you can't be too careful when it comes to the safety of your little one.

1. Effects

An electric wall or baseboard heater uses a convection process -- the transmission of heat in a gas or liquid by the circulation of currents from one area to another -- which prevents the heat that flows through the vent from getting hot. Gas furnaces are fueled with either natural gas or propane, explains Energy.gov, a website published by the U.S. Department of Energy. Heater covers are designed to shield innocent and inquisitive hands from roasting hot tubes inside an electric heater or from the roaring flames in a gas furnace. Even though these heater covers provide a barrier between little fingers and the fiery part of the unit, keep your tot away from wall heaters just to be on the safe side, since they do emit a certain amount of heat.

2. Childproofing

No specific product exists to fully block the heat from flowing through the wall or baseboard unit because that would obviously defeat the purpose of providing heat throughout your living space. You can block off the heater with a specialty gate that can be configured to block off wall or baseboard heaters. One type of safety gate features three interlocking sections, each section wide enough to be modified to various angles to fit the shape of a specific area, explains ConsumerResearch.com. Keep in mind that once your tot develops the savvy to open or climb over it, a safety gate loses its usefulness as a barrier. A second option is rearranging your furniture to keep the wall heater out of your tot's sight and steering him toward the middle of the room, where you've placed several tempting toys that may help divert your tyke's attention away from the walls.

3. Precautions

Wall heaters have the potential to burn your toddler long after the heating unit has been shut off, cautions HealthyChildren.org, a website published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. If a burn occurs, tote to your tot to the nearest sink and run cold water on the burned area for several minutes. Cover the burn with a clean cloth or dry bandage that's loose enough to let the skin breathe. Always touch base with your pediatrician when your child gets a burn. Bear in mind that your child may first come into contact with a wall heater when it is turned off. She may wrongly assume that it's safe to touch it, only to be taken aback or burned when the heat is on, cautions the National Safety Council.

4. Considerations

Carbon monoxide, or CO, poisoning is a potential problem for homes with gas heaters. Getting an annual furnace check and installing a CO monitoring device can keep your tot safe from the odorless, colorless, tasteless and potentially deadly gas. CO monitoring units are available at most home improvement stores. Unsafe levels of CO can quickly affect toddlers and preschoolers because of their small size, notes WebMD.

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