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About 5,000 children may be injured yearly from window falls

August 22, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • With better construction and safety measures, window falls among children may be prevented
With better construction and safety measures, window falls among children… (Beth Harpaz / Associated…)

More than 5,000 children a year go the emergency room after falling from windows, a study in the journal Pediatrics finds. The study, released Monday, examines patterns of such falls in children up to age 17, and finds that younger children may be at greater risk overall.

Researchers looked at data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from 1990 to 2008. In that time there were 98,415 children treated in hospital emergency rooms after sustaining a window fall, averaging 5,180 patients per year (not included in the study were falls from car windows, tree house windows, windows in homes under construction, falls through windows and falls from window sills, since in most of those cases the child fell back into the room). Patients were grouped by age, from 0 to 4 years old--the higher-risk group--and from 5 to 17 years old.

The average age of an injured child was 5.1 years old, and children age 0 to 4 made up 64.8% of the injuries, which peaked at ages 1 and 2. Boys sustained more injuries than girls (8.3 versus 6.3 per 100,000 children).

The study authors saw an overall decrease and leveling off in the rate of injuries from window falls among children age 0 to 4; that could be, they said, from caregivers being more aware about safety, better window construction and the use of window guards.

However, they noted that New York City and Boston enacted legislation and set up awareness and education campaigns about window falls that resulted in a huge decrease in accidents among children 0 to 4 years old. However, those programs did not take off nationwide.

Among other findings: Injury rates went up during summer, and two-story falls made up 62.7% of injury cases. In 83.5% of cases the condition of the window before the fall was not known; however, when it was known, a window screen was in place before the fall in 82.8% of cases. Among older children, 38.3% exhibited risky behavior such as jumping from or climbing out of a window.

"Parents and other child caregivers should be counseled not to depend on screens to prevent children from falling out of windows," the authors wrote. "To prevent these falls, window guards or window locks that prevent the window from opening more than four inches should be used."

Children 0 to 4 years old were more apt to have head or face injuries than older children, making them 1.65 times more likely to be hospitalized or die than older children. Among all children, 48.6% of injuries involved the head or face when the injured body part was known.

Since falls on hard surfaces were linked with a higher risk of sustaining a head injury, being hospitalized and dying, the authors also noted that planting shrubs or plant beds under windows whenever possible could cushion falls.

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