MONDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) -- Every six minutes, a child
under the age of 5 is treated in the ER for a stair-related injury,
new U.S. research shows.
The study found that from 1999 to 2008, more than 931,000
children arrived in hospital emergency rooms with such
And those younger than 1 who are carried on stairs seem
especially prone to getting hurt.
There is, however, some good news in the report: The annual
injury rate did, in fact, drop during the course of the
"We can be happy that the numbers are going down, but it's still a very common source of injury," said study co-author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
The study appears online and in the April print issue of the
In the 1990s, Smith and his colleagues warned about the hazards
of "baby walkers," wheeled walkers that could send babies tumbling
down stairs. Manufacturers redesigned the walkers so they'd come to
a halt at the top of a stairwell, Smith said.
For the new study, the researchers decided to take a wider look
at stair-related injuries. "We wanted to get some up-to-date
information, so we could give information to parents about the
hazards and come up with some new strategies," Smith explained.
The study authors used government data from about 100 hospitals
to estimate the number of emergency room visits that were due to
They found that about three-quarters of the injuries were to the
head and neck, and almost 3 percent of the kids injured had to be
Kids under the age of 5 "have a high center of gravity, up
around their chest, not near the waist like in adults," Smith said.
"They tend to topple forward and usually don't have the upper body
strength to break their fall. They typically injure their face,
head and neck."
Among injured kids under the age of 1, 25 percent were hurt
while being carried. Overall, kids who were injured while being
carried were more than three times as likely as other injured kids
to need to be hospitalized.
Why so many injuries in kids who were being carried? "We're in
this multitasking world where we're trying to do a lot of things,"
Smith said. "Parents need to resist that temptation."
If parents do need to carry a child on stairs, they should use
one hand free to steady themselves on the handrail, he said, "or
leave the child in the crib."
Overall, the number of stair-related injuries per year fell by
almost 12 percent from 1999 to 2008.
To prevent children from falling on stairs, University of
Pittsburgh pediatrician and assistant professor Dr. Sonika
Bhatnagar recommended that parents keep kids away from stairs when
possible, keep stairs free of objects, don't use them with a
stroller, don't use baby walkers and don't allow kids to play on or
Study co-author Smith said many stairs aren't designed to
prevent injuries, and Bhatnagar agreed. She said building codes
should allow wall-mounted gates on stairs to keep kids off them
(some stairways aren't designed to allow their use) and encourage
handrails that allow easy gripping. Other stairway design features
can improve safety, too, she said.
For more about
injuries, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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