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Gary Smith, MD, DrPH

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Heat Wave's Other Threat: Kids Falling Out Of Windows

First national study charts window falls,* doctors offer tips to protect children

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – The historic heat wave that has gripped much of the country is posing a threat to children that many parents might not have considered.  A new national study in the journal Pediatrics, shows that, on average, one hundred children a week - every week - are rushed to hospitals in the U-S after falling out of open windows.*

In order to get some relief from the heat, many families open windows, but this study highlights the dangers of leaving them open without taking precautions to protect children, especially when they are left unsupervised by an adult.

“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, DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

The study charted window falls over a 19 year period, from 1990 to 2008.  It found that children 0 to 4 years of age are the most vulnerable, accounting for 65% of the injuries, and 2 year olds are at the greatest risk.  In many cases, parents had inadvertently added to the risk, by placing furniture near the windows.

“A number of children in this study gained access to the window by climbing up on furniture.  Therefore, parents need to remember to keep furniture away from windows” said Dr. Smith, who is also a professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

Another mistake parents make is assuming screens will protect their children.  “When information was available about whether a screen was in the window or not, over 80% of the time a screen was present” said Smith.  “The message to parents is that screens won’t keep children from falling out of a window.”

Other tips to protect children around open windows include:

-Install window guards on all second-story or higher windows in places where young children live or visit.  Window guards are available at most home-improvement stores.

-If windows are open, use window stops to prevent the window from opening more than 4 inches.  Window stops are also available at most home-improvement stores.

-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.

Also, experts suggest taking precautions outdoors.  “Because we found that fall-related injuries are related to the height of the fall and also how hard the surface is underneath the window, parents should consider planting a flower bed or bushes underneath windows to help cushion a fall should it happen” Smith said.

This is the first study to use a nationally representative sample to examine injuries associated with window falls that were treated in U.S. emergency departments. Data for this study were obtained from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which is operated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The NEISS dataset provides information on consumer product-related and sports and recreation-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments across the country.

*Pediatric injuries due to falls from windows in the United States, 1990-2008, Pediatrics, published online August 22, 2011.




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