How to Keep Your Kid from Falling Off the Furniture
More than a million children a year tumble off changing tables, beds and highchairs — and land in the hospital
While furniture and televisions falling on children has gotten a lot of attention as a safety issue, children falling off furniture also presents a significant danger. A study published by the journal JAMA Pediatrics reveals that such falls send more than one million children a year to emergency rooms.
Most often, children fell off beds, chairs, baby walkers, bouncers, changing tables and highchairs, according to the study. The most common injuries suffered by the kids who fell were blows to the head, cuts and fractures.
Parents of the injured kids were less likely to use safety gates compared to a control group of parents. And among injuries involving babies less than a year old, the parents were more likely to leave young children unsupervised on raised surfaces. What’s clear is that most of the accidents seen in the study were preventable.
To keep your kids safe from preventable falls in the home, follow these tips.
1. Never leave a baby alone on raised furniture. Whether it's a bed or changing table or anything else above floor level, don't risk leaving a baby there by themselves, even for a second. Changing tables should have two-inch guardrails. Children under 6 should not use the top bunk of a bunk bed, according to KidsHealth.
2. Always use safety straps when they're available. If you’re buying a highchair or infant seat, look for a three-point or five-point harness rather than a single strap. And then use it!
3. Block young crawlers and early walkers from the stairs. Stairs are tempting to little ones, and it doesn't take much for a toddler to lose balance and take a big fall. Put safety gates securely in place at the top and bottom of staircases. If your child’s head can fit through gaps near the banister, KidsHealth recommends putting up a banister guard, which is basically a sheet of plastic or netting. When toddlers are ready to attempt stairs, KidsHealth suggests showing them how to descend backward, with legs on the lower step and hands on the upper step.
4. Avoid baby walkers. As entertaining as it might be to watch a baby learn to walk while wheeling around the house, walkers are particularly hazardous. They can topple over, and if they reach a staircase, the result can be disastrous. More recent models are supposed to be larger than a doorway and have a rubber friction strip on the bottom to stop the walker if it reaches the top of a staircase. However, recalls by the Consumer Product Safety Commission indicate that is not always the case. Safety advocates recommend a stationary entertainment center as an alternative.
5. Know the limitations of highchairs. Aside from always using the safety strap (the trays are not designed as a safety device), use the highchair only for feeding and not as an alternate sitting area. Children should be discouraged from climbing on them when they are not being used for a meal. Be sure the high chair is stable — that it doesn't wobble to one side or another — and lock the wheels (if it has them) when it’s in use.
6. Teach your child not to climb on furniture. It sounds basic, and it is. But the study in JAMA Pediatrics indicated that parents of children who fell off furniture were less likely to teach their kids not to climb on things in the kitchen, like highchairs or tables. Sometimes, a little common sense and a few rules can go a long way.