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EDs treat thousands of kids who fall out of windows

Monday August 22, 2011
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Although many parents know that windows can be hazardous for their child, they may not be aware just how often things can take a turn for the worse.

A study has found that approximately 5,200 children and adolescents ages 17 and younger were treated in EDs at U.S. hospitals each year from 1990 through 2008 for injuries sustained after falls from windows. This translates to approximately 14 children every day in the U.S.

The study, which appears on the website of the journal Pediatrics and will run in the September print issue, found that children ages 0 to 4 years were especially vulnerable, not only accounting for a majority (65%) of the injuries, but also having a higher rate of serious injury resulting in hospitalization or death.

Children who fell from a height of three stories or above or who landed on a hard surface, such as concrete or brick, were also at increased risk for serious injury. Overall, the most common injuries were to the head and face region (49%), and the most frequent injury diagnoses were soft tissue injury (41%) and brain/head injury (26%).

"Window fall injuries are serious," said senior author Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio. "In fact, one out of every four children in our study was hospitalized as a result of their injury.

"We know from successful [community education] programs in New York City and Boston that child injuries due to falls from windows can be prevented. We need to do a better job of protecting our children from these types of serious injuries."

According to the study data, more than 190 children fell from windows each year after gaining access to the window by climbing on furniture placed near the window. Therefore, the authors said, furniture should be moved away from windows to help keep young children safe.

"In addition, it is important for parents to understand that window screens will not prevent a child from falling out of a window," said Smith, also a professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. "There were many children in our study who pushed a screen out of a window and then fell from the window."

To prevent injuries from window falls, according to the study, parents should:

• Install window guards on all second-story or higher windows in places where young children live or visit, remembering that screens will not prevent a child from falling out of a window.

• If windows are open, use window stops to prevent the window from opening more than four inches.

• Move all furniture away from windows.

• Remember that fire escapes, roofs and balconies are not safe places for children to play.

• Educate older children on the dangers of climbing out of or jumping from windows.

• Consider planting bushes or locating flower beds under windows to soften the landing surface, which may reduce the severity of injury in the event of a fall.

To download a PDF of the study, visit http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/08/17/peds.2010-2687.


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