Falls are the most common cause of injury visits to the emergency room for young children. Falls cause more open wounds, fractures, and brain injuries than any other cause. Most falls occur at home, but the playground is another spot for spills. Taking certain safety measures can prevent a fall for your child.
Infants are more likely to fall from furniture. Babies who are left unsupervised on top of beds, changing tables, and even couches, can roll off. Make sure to:
Never leave babies alone on any furniture. This includes beds, tables, sofas, cribs with the guardrails down, or changing tables.
Choose baby products that meet safety standards.
Use all safety straps and features.
Look for safety features on high chairs, cribs, and other equipment.
Install padding on sharp corners.
Young children are curious and will explore an open window. Windows that are open just 5 inches pose a danger to children. Falls from windows tend to be the most severe. In some cases these falls can cause death. A closed window can also be dangerous if the child can get near it. Falling through glass can cause serious and often fatal injury. To prevent falls from windows:
Install window guards on all windows above the first floor.
If you must open windows, make sure your child cannot reach the open window.
Set rules with your child about playing near windows.
Remove furniture near windows that children can climb on.
Don’t rely on insect screens to keep children from falling out of windows.
Infants and toddlers don’t realize the danger of falling down stairs. Older children who run up and down the stairs can trip and injure themselves. To prevent problems:
Remove clutter on stairs.
Use safety gates to prevent infants and toddlers from falling down stairs.
Don’t use accordion gates with large openings. A child can get trapped in one of these.
Rugs or mats that aren’t secure on bare floors can cause a child to slip and fall. Make sure to:
Use slip-resistant mats. Put slip-resistant stickers in tubs.
Put foam backing, a rubber pad, or double-sided tape under area rugs.
Remove clutter and other hazards on floors.
Playgrounds can pose some safety hazards. To prevent playground falls:
Make sure equipment has been designed for playground use.
Adults should always supervise children at the playground.
Make sure playground equipment is age-appropriate. Most equipment today is made for 1 of 2 age groups: children ages 2 to 5 years, and children ages 5 to 12 years. A sticker is required on each piece of equipment showing the age group it is designed for.
Play areas for younger children should be separate from those of older children. To reduce the risk for injury, children under age 5 should not play on equipment taller than 4 feet. Equipment for 5- to 12-year-olds should not be taller than 8 feet.
Surfaces under playground equipment should be soft enough to absorb falls. Recommended surfaces include wood chips or mulch, sand, pea gravel, rubber, and rubber-like materials. These surfaces should be kept at a depth of 12 inches. Other safe options include rubber mats, synthetic turf, or other artificial materials. Concrete, grass, blacktop, and packed surfaces are unsafe.
Surface materials should cover "fall zones" around equipment. This often includes the area at least 6 feet in all directions from the equipment.
Playground equipment should be spaced apart. This is to prevent overcrowding of children during play.
Swings, seesaws, and other equipment with moving parts should be in areas that are separate from the rest of the playground. This is to prevent children from being hit by other children or play gear in motion.
A warning about baby walkers
Baby walkers may seem like a great way to help your child keep steady while walking around the house. But thousands of children a year are treated for baby-walker related injuries. Facts about walkers include:
Baby walkers cause more injuries than any other nursery product.
Most children who are injured while in a baby walker are between the ages of 5 and 15 months.
Most baby walker-related injuries are caused by falls down stairs or by tipping over.
Baby walkers give small children access to hot substances on tables and stoves, as well as poisonous substances in cabinets.
National pediatric associations have called for a ban of baby walkers. Safer alternatives to baby walkers include:
Stationary "walkers" that allow a child to rotate and bounce
Talk with your child's health care provider for more information.