Window Falls Still a Risk for Children

”]Every week, about 100 children and adolescents in the United States are treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries sustained from window falls. Approximately 25 percent of the injured children were hospitalized. A new study conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital documented the incidence and causes of window falls.

Given the window regulations that have been in place for decades, and the sophistication of parents when it comes to keeping their children safe, it seems astounding that more than 5,000 children are hurt from falls from windows each year. (And these numbers don’t include children treated by their family physicians or those who died at the scene.)

The study (which will be published in the September issue of the journal Pediatrics) examined window falls from 1990 through 2008. The researchers concluded that while many parents know that windows can be a hazard for their child, they may not be aware just how often things can take a turn for the worse.

Some of the injuries seemed to occur due to the ingenuity of children. For example, nearly 200 children fell from windows each year after climbing on furniture placed near windows. Also, many children pushed out window screens before falling. According to Dr. Gary A. Smith, lead researcher of the study and professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine:

“Screens just pop right out, and that’s not enough to keep a child in,’’ said Dr. Smith.

Another bit of surprising information revealed by the study:  Falls from first- or second-floor windows accounted for 94 percent of falls. This may explain why parents weren’t fully aware of the risk—most of us associate window falls with high, multi-story apartment buildings.

According to an article in The New York Times:

Risk for falling out a window peaks between the ages of 1 and 2. About two-thirds of the window falls involved children under 5.

“That’s the age group that are exploring,’’ said Dr. Smith. “They see the open window and don’t see the danger, and out they go.’’

According to the U.S. News & World Report, younger children need to be protected from their own curiosity by installing window guards and moving furniture away from windows. Older children, on the other hand, need to be protected from their fearlessness:

Older children… can figure out how to remove window guards, so they need to be educated about risky behavior that can result in falls.

Tips on Preventing Window Falls

The Center for Injury Research and Policy is a great source of information about preventing childhood injuries, including injuries from window falls. They offer these tips:

  • Window screens are not designed to stop a child from falling. A normal window screen is NOT enough to keep children safe.
  • It is best to purchase window guards with a quick release mechanism. This will allow the window to be opened easily by an adult in the case of a fire emergency.
  • Use window stops to prevent windows from opening more than 4 inches.
  • Install locks on sliding windows to prevent children from opening them.
  • Move all furniture away from windows. Children can climb on furniture to access windows that are otherwise out of reach.
  • Create soft landing surfaces such as bushes or plant beds under windows to help prevent serious injuries in case of a fall.
  • Do not allow children to play on fire escapes, roofs or balconies.
  • Make sure that older children understand the dangers of climbing out of or jumping from windows.
  • Young children should never be left at home unsupervised.

To visit the Center for Injury Research and Policy website (which includes a safety video), click here: Window Falls

To read the full article in The New York Times, click here:  Window Falls Remain a Childhood Hazard

To read the full article in U.S. News and World Report, click here:  Falls from Windows Claiming Too Many Children’s Lives

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