Falls - Accidental Falls

Child Safety

Falls are common among kids, especially when older infants and toddlers are learning to walk. Some toddlers fall so much that their parents joke that they are going to make them wear a helmet all of the time. Luckily, most of those falls don't cause serious injuries.

Other falls, such as when a child falls out of a window or falls off his bike when not wearing a helmet, can cause serious injuries. It is no joke that falls are the leading cause of non-fatal accidents for kids and a leading cause of accidental death.

About 8,000 children are treated in emergency rooms for injuries from falls every day, including falls related to:

  • Stairs
  • Windows
  • Playground equipment
  • Bicycles
  • Skates and scooters
  • Beds, including bunk beds, toddler beds and cribs
  • Furniture
  • Shopping carts

In addition to ER visits, about 180 children die from falls each year. Recent ones in the news include:

  • a 3-year-old in Providence, Rhode Island who died after falling through the screen of an open window of the sixth floor of her grandmother's apartment building.
  • a 2-year-old in Bronx, New York who died after falling from an open fifth story window in his grandmother's apartment.
  • a 2-year-old in Dallas, Texas who was hospitalized after falling from the upper level to the seats below of the American Airlines Center while watching Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
  • a 9-month-old in Savannah, Georgia who died after falling from the 5th floor balcony of the Hyatt Regency Savannah.
  • a 20-month-old in Brooklyn, New York who died after falling out of a sixth-floor window. The toddler had climbed out of his crib and onto a dresser in front of the window before falling out of the window that did not have a window guard installed.
  • a 12-year-old from Ridgeway, Illinois who died after falling 100 feet from a cliff at the Chimney Rock Area at the Garden of the Gods recreation area in Shawnee National Forest.
  • a 16-year-old from Grand Valley, Colorado who died after falling 100 fell from a cliff edge at Independence Monument at the Colorado National Monument.
  • a 1-year-old in Minneapolis, Minnesota who is in critical condition after slipping through the balcony railings and falling 11 stories from a high-rise building.
  • A 2-year-old who fell from a third floor window, but fortunately landed on an awning, in Reading, Pa.
  • A 2-year-old who suffered massive head injuries when he fell out of the second story window from his home in Antioch, Ca.
  • A 2-year-old who survived a five-story fall out of Bronx, NY apartment window.
  • An 11-year-old who who died after falling more than 100 feet out of a Ferris wheel gondola while on a school field trip in Wildwood, NJ
  • Two toddlers who survived a fall out of a second story window in Petaluma, CA
  • A 4-year-old who was in critical condition after a fall out of a second-story window in Chicago
  • A 2-year-old who was in critical condition after a fall out of a third-story window in Binghamton, NY
  • An 11-month-old who died after slipping off the lap of a family member who had fallen asleep in a horse-drawn carriage near Gibbs, MO
  • A 16-month-old who died after a fall from a third-floor window in Hartford, CT
  • A toddler in Vineland, NJ who died after falling seven feet into a grease pit that was usually covered by a manhole cover
  • An 11-month-old who was flown by helicopter to a hospital after falling down 13 hardwood stairs in Clinton Township, NJ
  • A 10-year-old who was in the intensive care unit after falling about 25 to 30 feet down a steep rock-covered hill in Quarry View Park, ID

Protect your kids from falls. Most falls can be prevented with supervision, guards on windows, gates on stairs and making sure your child is in an age-appropriate bed. Bed tips include:

  • Moving to a toddler bed once your child is 36 inches tall, even if he hasn't tried to climb out of his crib yet
  • Making sure your toddler bed meets the latest toddler bed safety standards, including guardrails that are at least five inches above the mattress
  • Not allowing children under age 6 on the upper bunk of a bunk bed

You can't prevent all falls though, which is why it's also important to make sure your child wears a helmet when he rides a bike, scooter, etc. You should install a shock-absorbing surface around playground equipment, and use an anchor and/or angle brace to secure furniture to the wall.

Sources:

AAP Policy Statement. Falls From Heights: Windows, Roofs, and Balconies. Pediatrics 2001 107: 1188-1191.

AAP Policy Statement. Shopping Cart-Related Injuries to Children Pediatrics 2006 118: 825-827.

CDC. Protect the Ones You Love: Child Injuries are Preventable. Falls: The Reality. Accessed June 2011.

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