A new article in the journal Pediatrics, in a 10-year period, about 932,000 children under the age of 5 were taken to hospitals for injuries they sustained on a staircase, usually at home. According to an article in The New York Times:
“What that tells us is that we have much more that we need to do to make the home environment safer for children,” said Dr. Gary A. Smith, lead author of the study and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. “Children under 5 spend most of their time in the home, and even the best parent in the world can’t watch their child 100 percent of the time. It just simply isn’t possible.”
These types of falls are particularly difficult to prevent because staircases aren’t designed with child safety as a goal. In about two-thirds of homes, wall-mounted stair gates aren’t possible to install, and one-third of homes can’t accommodate a pressurized gate at the bottom of the staircase. Contrary to what many people might think, the risks to children are even higher if they are being carried down the stairs by an adult. According to the article in The New York Times, 25% of stair-injured children age 12 months or younger were being carried at the time of the injury.
“I knew that this was something that occurred, but I had no idea that it was that common,” Dr. Smith said.
The injuries are potentially serious—more than 75% of the injuries occurred to the head and neck. What can be done? According to Dr. Smith, we should start by taking a closer look at our staircases. Some suggestions:
- Make sure you have a safe bannister that you can grip. Many bannisters are decorative, but too large. If you can’t wrap your fingers and thumb all the way around, consider replacing it with a more functional model.
- Don’t rely on a pressure-mounted gate at the top of a staircase—they loosen over time and are not as secure. If possible, choose wall-mounted gates instead.
- If you carry a child down the stairs, your balance will be thrown off, making it more likely that you will take a tumble, baby and all. Hold the bannister, and clear stairs of potential trip hazards.
- Minimize stair use while carrying children. Place them in a safe place instead of carrying them up and down the stairs.
- If you are carrying a child, don’t carry anything else—keep your spare hand on the bannister.
- Don’t allow children to play on or around stairs.
To read the full article in The New York Times, click here: Stairs at home remain a childhood hazard
To read the full article in the journal Pediatrics, click here: Stair-related injuries to young children