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Keeping kids safe from stair-related injuries

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Experts warn children should be taught not to play on stairs.

A new report shows high number of U.S. children are treated in emergency rooms for stair-related injuries each year. The finding showed 93,000 kids younger than age 5 went to the ER from 1999 to 2008 because they either fell or were injured while being carried down the stairs or were in a stroller or baby walker. The research highlights keeping kids safe from stair-related injuries that happen quickly and all too often.

Fortunately, the study authors from Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital have recommendations that can keep kids from being injured from stair-related mishaps, starting with some basic advice.

Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and a professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine said in a press release, "Through a combination of educating parents, use of stair gates, and modifying building codes to make stairs safer, we can prevent these types of injuries.”

In addition to using stair gates, the researchers say it’s important to teach kids not to play on the stairs. Jumping, running and playing on steps can easily lead to face, neck and upper extremity injuries, which were the most common found in the study.

Parents should resist the urge to carry children younger than 1-year of age down the steps. The investigation showed one-fourth of injuries in the less than 1-year old age group happened from carrying down the stairs, which also resulted in triple the need for hospitalization.

The study, appearing in the April, 2012 issue of the journal Pediatrics, found that even though stair-related injuries are on the decline, they are still a common source of injury for kids.

Injuries to the head, neck and upper extremities included soft tissue injury, such as bruising and lacerations and puncture wounds.

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Other stair hazards to watch out for include disrepair that can lead to tripping or even falling through a step, lack of handrails, which should always be used if you have to carry your little one down the stairs and clutter. Better yet, put your child in a crib when you need to use the stairs, and never use a stroller or carriage on the steps.

Carrying groceries or other items with baby in arms is also risky. The researchers recommend holding onto a handrail and make sure your child is the only other thing in your arms.

Even if you do use the recommended baby gates at the top and bottom of stairs, the study authors warn they're no substitute for parental supervision.

If you have a mobile baby walker, consider trading in for one that is stationary that the researchers say are safer.

Teach your children that toys don't go on the steps. Emphasize the importance of using a hand rail when your child begins to walk. If they want to take something up or down the stairs, tell them to ask an adult for help.

The finding come from data obtained from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS); operated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The researchers suggest parents learn how to keep kids safe from stair-related injuries that resulted in 93,000 injuries among children under age 5 from 1999 to 2008 that can happen in just a matter of seconds and occurs every six minutes.

Nationwide Children's
"New Study Examines Stair-Related Injuries Among Children in the United States"

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