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Falls from windows injure 5,100 kids every year

More than 5,100 children a year go to the hospital with injuries after falling from windows, a new analysis finds.  Two-thirds of the kids hurt are toddlers, who have a higher center of gravity and little awareness of danger.
/ Source: Reuters

Every year, more than 5,100 American kids go to the hospital with injuries after falling out of windows, and a quarter of them are serious enough for the children to be admitted, according to the first nationwide study of the problem.

Over 19 years, researchers found, the rate has dropped only slightly.

“It really is nothing to take comfort in,” said Dr. Gary Smith, who heads the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

“We continue to see this problem, especially in younger kids, despite the fact that we know how to prevent it,” added Smith, who led the new work.

Between 1990 and 2008, an estimated 98,415 kids younger than 18 were treated at hospitals for injuries they had sustained after falling out of windows, according to an analysis of cases included in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

That’s about 7.3 injuries per 100,000 children, Smith and his colleagues report in the journal Pediatrics.

Toddlers often fall head-first
Toddlers led the injury statistics, accounting for two-thirds of all cases. According to Smith, that’s because they’re curious, don’t understand danger, and have a high center of gravity.

“As they lean over, their high center of gravity will make them topple,” he explained. “They almost invariably land head-first.”

Nearly half the children had damages to their heads or faces, but only two in 1,000 cases were fatal.

Most of the falls happened from the second floor.

“We need to look beyond the major cities,” Smith said. “Most children don’t live in high-rise apartments, they live in homes.”

The way to prevent falls, he added, is to ensure that kids don’t have access to windows, for instance, by removing furniture they can climb to get there.

Another good idea is to install window guards or stops, which some cities already have mandated. In New York, for instance, the Health Code requires apartment buildings to install guards on all windows in households with kids under 11.

“Parents need to remember that window screens simply won’t be enough,” said Smith.