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Child Safety: Preventing Falls

Topic Overview

Protecting babies

Each new learning stage for your baby requires increased attention on your part to prevent an injury. It may surprise you how fast your baby can move from one stage to the next. Being aware of your baby's abilities and what skills he or she is likely to develop next will help you prevent injuries.

Be aware of your baby's risk of injury from falling:

  • Never leave your baby unattended in high places, such as on a tabletop, in a crib with the sides down, or even on a bed or sofa.
  • Don't leave your baby unattended in any infant seat or "sitting" toy, such as a swing or jumper. Use all the safety straps provided.
  • Remember that a baby with a pacifier or other object in his or her mouth is at risk for face and mouth injuries in addition to other injuries from a fall.

Take steps to prevent falls:

  • Use sliding gates at both ends of stairways. Avoid accordion-style gates, because a child's head could get caught in the gate. Look for a gate with openings no bigger than 2.3 in. (5.8 cm).
  • Don't use baby walkers. Walker injuries can include pinches and falls. Walkers can cause severe accidents, such as a fall down a flight of stairs.
  • Keep your baby away from elevated porches, decks, and landings.
  • Make your home safe from falls by removing hazards that might cause a fall.

Protecting toddlers and young children

Toddlers and young children like to explore, climb, walk, run, and dance. These activities put them at risk for falls and injuries. You can help prevent accidents in the following ways:

  • As soon as your baby can walk, lock doors to all dangerous areas. Keep keys out of your child's sight and reach.
  • Be careful when using equipment such as high chairs and changing tables. Always use the safety straps, and keep a close eye on your child.
  • Use sliding gates at both ends of stairways. Avoid accordion-style gates, because a child's head could get caught in the gate. Look for a gate with openings no bigger than 2.3 in. (5.8 cm).
  • Keep stairways clean and safe. Carpeting on stairs should be in good repair. Uncarpeted stairs should be kept clean but not slick. Train your child to hold on to the rail and to walk carefully down each step one at a time. If you have pets, teach your child to keep away from them while on stairs.
  • Attach double-sided tape, foam backing, or a rubber pad to throw rugs to secure them on flooring.
  • Watch your toddler when he or she is outside. Uneven grass, sloping lawns, and hills can make walking difficult.
  • Have your child stay seated when he or she is eating or drinking. And don't allow your child to walk or run with any objects in his or her mouth. Your unsteady toddler could get face and mouth injuries in addition to other injuries from a fall.
  • Install window guards. Also, don't place furniture, including chairs, close to windows. Make sure windows are closed and locked securely when children are present.
  • Don't allow your child to climb on high furniture.

Keep thinking ahead for new falling hazards that your child may encounter, such as:

  • Playground equipment, especially slides and monkey bars. Avoid taking your child to playgrounds that don't have a soft surface beneath the equipment.
  • Tricycles. Only allow your child to ride solid, stable tricycles that are low to the ground. Also, watch where your child rides. Steep downhill slopes can make your child lose control and fall.
  • Falling off the bed. Install bed rail guards to help prevent falls. Many are now available that are easy to attach and remove. Make sure openings in rails are small enough to prevent a child from getting trapped, which can lead to choking or suffocating.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2001, reaffirmed 2004). Falls from heights: Windows, roofs, and balconies. Pediatrics, 107(5): 1188–1191.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Current as of November 26, 2012

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