MONDAY, Dec. 9, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Young children are
falling out of high chairs at alarming rates, according to a new
safety study that found high chair accidents increased 22 percent
between 2003 and 2010.
U.S. emergency rooms now attend to an average of almost 9,500
high chair-related injuries every year, a figure that equates to
one injured infant per hour. The vast majority of incidents involve
children under the age of 1 year.
"We know that these injuries can and do happen, but we did not expect to see the kind of increase that we saw," said study co-author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
"Most of the injuries we're talking about, over 90 percent, involve falls with young toddlers whose center of gravity is high, near their chest, rather than near the waist as it is with adults," Smith said. "So when they fall they topple, which means that 85 percent of the injuries we see are to the head and face."
Because the fall is from a seat that's higher than the
traditional chair and typically onto a hard kitchen floor, "the
potential for a serious injury is real," he added. "This is
something we really need to look at more, so we can better
understand why this seems to be happening more frequently."
For the study, published online Dec. 9 in
Clinical Pediatrics, the authors analyzed information
collected by the U.S. National Electronic Injury Surveillance
System. The data concerned all high chair, booster seat, and normal
chair-related injuries that occurred between 2003 and 2010 and
involved children 3 years old and younger.
The researchers found that high chair/booster chair injuries
rose from 8,926 in 2003 to 10,930 by 2010.
Roughly two-thirds of high chair accidents involved children who
had been either standing or climbing in the chair just before their
fall, the study authors noted.
The conclusion: Chair restraints either aren't working as they
should or parents are not using them properly.
"In recent years, there have been millions of high chairs recalled because they do not meet current safety standards. Most of these chairs are reasonably safe when restraint instructions are followed, but even so, there were 3.5 million high chairs recalled during our study period alone," said Smith. However, even highly educated and informed parents aren't always fully aware of a recall when it happens, he noted.
Still, Smith believes that a 2008 Consumer Product Safety
Improvement Act will lead to a notable drop in recalls in coming
years because it calls for independent third-party testing of
beforethey're put on the market.
This could eliminate many serious head injuries, he believes.
According to the study, the most frequent ER diagnosis after a high
chair fall is a concussion or internal head injury, otherwise known
as a "closed head injury." This type of head trauma accounted for
37 percent of high chair injuries, and its frequency climbed by
nearly 90 percent during the eight years studied.
Nearly six in 10 children experienced an injury to their head or
neck after a high chair fall, while almost three in 10 experienced
a facial injury, the study found.
Injuries related to falls from traditional chairs were more
likely to be broken bones, cuts and bruises.
For now, Smith said, the top three things parents can do to
ensure their child's safety: "Use the restraint, use the restraint,
use the restraint!"
The tray is not meant to be a restraint. Children need to be
buckled in, he added.
Also, supervision is a must. Stay with your child during meal
time and make sure he or she doesn't defeat the restraint, he said.
"Even if a chair does meet current safety standards and the
restraint is used properly, there's never 100 percent on this . . .
Parents will always need to be vigilant."
Also, if the high chair has wheels, lock them in place. Make
sure the high chair is stable, and position it away from walls or
counters that the child can push against.
Kate Carr, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based group
Safe Kids Worldwide, called the findings a wake-up call.
"An alarming number of children under the age of 3 are seen in emergency departments," she said. "This is an important reminder for parents and caregivers to take the time to make sure their children are safe and secure in their high chairs."
For more on infant and toddler safety, visit the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
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