Hospital Emergency Department Cautions Parents About Stair-Related Injury In Children

NEWARK – A child under 5 years is taken to an emergency department every six minutes for a stair-related injury in America. Even though the number of stair-related injuries has declined in recent years, stairs still pose a health risk for young children. More than 900,000 children under five were taken to hospital emergency departments from 1999 to the end of 2008 in the U.S., according to a recent study reported in the journal Pediatrics.

One quarter of injuries experienced by children up to twelve months of age occurred while the child was being carried. Children involved in a fall while being carried were three times more likely to be hospitalized than those injured on stairs due to other causes.

“Parents may not be away of the danger of falling down stairs while carrying a child,” says Michael Rosen, MD, Director of the Pediatric Emergency Department at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. “Serious injury can result from a fall in this situation, especially if an adult’s body falls on top of a child’s body.”

Those aged up to twelve months tended to have an injury while they were being carried, in their baby walker, or in their stroller. The study found that 35% of the injured children had soft tissue injuries and 76% had head or neck injuries.

Older children were more likely than younger kids to be injured when jumping down stairs and more than 14,000 injuries were associated with that behavior. Riding wheeled toys down stairs also resulted in injury.

More than 80 percent of fall-related injuries among children ages 4 and under occur in the home.

The Emergency Department at Children’s Hospital of New Jersey offers the following suggestions for stair safety with children:

  • Keep stairs in good order
  • Keep stairs clutter free
  • Stair gates should be fitted properly to the bottom and top of stairs. Although gates are effective in reducing injury risk, adult supervision is necessary.
  • When possible, do not carry a child up or down the stairs
  • If you have to carry a child, do not carry other things too, and hold the handrail.
  • Do not use strollers or carriages with a child inside on the stairs.
  • Avoid using mobile baby walkers.
  • Teach your child to hold onto the handrail all the time and to walk up and down stairs, and run.
  • Explain to the child that the stairs are not for jumping on or playing.

“With some preventative measures with younger children, and discussion with older children, parents can avoid many of the accidents that result in admission to emergency departments,” says John A. Brennan, MD, MPH, President and Chief Executive Officer of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. “We support any measures that promote child safety.”

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