Did you know that a child can be hurt bad enough to require a trip to the emergency room from falling out a first floor window? Window falls may be unpredictable, but they are also preventable.
A recent study found that there were more than 98,000 injuries to children, related to window falls from 1990 to 2008. The rates of injuries dropped for the youngest kids (newborns to 4-year-olds), but didn’t change much for those from 5 to 17 years of age. Most of the improvement for the smallest children came during the 1990s. Improvement in construction and installed window guards may have contributed to a decline in the injuries, along with greater awareness from parents and caregivers of the dangers of unsecured windows.
Researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, discovered that 2 year olds accounted for the majority of serious falls. Researchers categorized falls by distance, and surfaces where children landed. Falls from the second story (12.1 to 24 feet) accounted for 63 percent of the injuries and those from the first floor (less than 12 feet) represented 31 percent. About 6 percent, were from the third floor or higher.
Children 0 to 4 years of age were more likely to sustain head injuries, and to be hospitalized or to die compared with children 5 to 17 years of age. According to the study, the average age of children was 5.1 years, and boys accounted for 58.1 percent of cases.
About 40 percent of kids were injured after landing on asphalt or another hard surface. 42 percent landed on grass, or dirt and about 16 percent landed on bushes or something softer such as mulch. Children who landed on hard surfaces were more likely to suffer a head injury than children who landed on softer surfaces.
“Window fall injuries are serious. In fact, one out of every four children in our study was hospitalized as a result of their injury,” said the study’s senior author Gary Smith, MD, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “We know from successful programs in New York City and Boston (window fall prevention classes) 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.”
“In addition, it is important for parents to understand that window screens will not prevent a child from falling out of a window,” said Dr. Smith, “There were many children in our study who pushed a screen out of a window and then fell from the window. The best parent in the world can’t watch their children 100 percent of the time. Children want to check things out, and they don’t know that an open window is a danger that has very severe consequences.”
The study was published in the September 2011 print edition of Pediatrics.
When the weather changes from either extreme cold or heat, windows are often opened to enjoy the fresh air. That’s when the danger from a window fall can happen.
www.Safekids.org offers these tips for preventing window falls:
- Install window guards to prevent children from falling out of windows. For windows above the first floor, install window guards with an emergency release device in case of fire.
- Install window stops so that windows open no more than four inches.
- Keep windows locked and closed when they are not being used.
- Keep furniture away from windows so kids cannot climb to the ledge.
- If you have double-hung windows, the kind that can open down from the top as well as up from the bottom, it is generally safer to open the top pane, but growing kids may have enough strength, dexterity and curiosity to open the bottom pane.
- Do not rely on window screens to prevent falls.
- Keep windows locked when they are closed.
- Supervise children at all times, especially around open windows.
You may also want to consider planting bushes or locating flowerbeds under windows to soften the landing surface, which may reduce the severity of injury in the event of a fall.
Windows falls can change the life, or take the life, of a small child in a matter of seconds. Make sure that your child is educated about the dangers of playing around opened windows, and never leave a small child alone in a room where any window is open or unlocked.