On average, more than 9,400 children were treated each year for an injury associated with a high chair or booster seat, equaling one child every hour nationally, according to a study.
In addition, the annual number of injured children increased during the study period, which spanned 2003 through 2010.
Researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Childrens Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, examined data relating to children ages 3 and younger who were treated in U.S. EDs for high chair-related injuries.
The study, published Dec. 9 on the website of Clinical Pediatrics, found that 93% of injuries associated with a high chair or booster seat involved a fall. In the cases that reported what the child was doing just before the fall, two-thirds of the children injured were climbing or standing in the chair, suggesting that the chairs safety restraint system either was not being used or was ineffective in these cases.
Families may not think about the dangers associated with the use of high chairs, study author Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, said in a news release.
Closed head injuries, which include concussions and internal head injuries, were the most common diagnosis associated with high chairs (37%) followed by bumps/bruises (33%) and cuts (19%).
The number of CHIs increased by almost 90% during the study period, going from 2,558 in 2003 to 4,789 in 2010. The body regions most commonly injured were the head/neck (59%) and the face (28%).
The number one thing parents can do to prevent injuries related to high chairs is to use the safety restraint system in the chair, said Smith, a professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. The vast majority of injuries from these products are from falls. Buckling your child in every time you use the high chair can help keep them safe.
Smith also noted that many parents assume the tray will keep a child from jumping or falling out but stressed that the tray was not designed as a restraint, meaning the use of the safety straps is essential.
The study also compared injuries related to high chairs and booster seats with injuries associated with traditional chairs. More than 40,000 injuries associated with chairs were reported each year during the study period, which equals four children every hour nationally.
Falling and jumping from the chair were the leading mechanisms of injury. Children with injuries associated with the use of traditional chairs were more likely to sustain broken bones, cuts and bruises.
To keep children safe in high chairs, according to the researchers:
Always use the safety straps. Buckling children in the seat with the straps every time they are in the high chair will help set a routine and keep them safe by keeping them seated and securely in the chair. Make sure the straps are in good working order and firmly attached to the chair. Only use chairs with either a three-point or five-point harness that includes a crotch strap or post. Remember: The tray is not sufficient to keep children in the seat.
Use high chairs appropriately during meal time. Teach children that the high chair is where they sit for eating. Allowing them to play, climb or stand in the chair can cause it to tip over. Also make sure that older siblings know not to climb on the chair.
Keep the area around the high chair clear. Children are naturally curious and will grab things in their reach. Make sure tablecloths, placemats, sharp silverware, plates and hot food and liquids are out of reach. If the high chair is too close to the table, a counter or the wall, the child may knock the chair over by kicking their feet into these objects.
Make sure the chair is stable. Before selecting a high chair for your child, test it out. Chairs with wide bases are often more stable, and using high chairs that meet current safety standards is important. If the chair has wheels, make sure they are locked into place before use.
Stay with your child during meal time. An unsupervised child is more likely to try to escape from his or her high chair and also can be more likely to choke on food.
Check for recalls. Millions of unsafe high chairs have been recalled during recent years. Make sure the one you are using does not have any known injury hazards. Check www.recalls.gov to see whether your high chair has been recalled.