Falling from Windows: A Common and Preventable Child Injury

on August 22 2011 11:16 PM

Each year, more than 5,000 American children end up in the hospital after falling out of windows, medical records show.

Researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, studied emergency room data from 1990 through 2008 and found that approximately 5,200 children and adolescents per year were treated for injuries because they had fallen out of windows.

We continue to see this problem, especially in younger kids, despite the fact that we know how to prevent it, said Dr. Gary Smith, who led the study.

During the 19 years, a reported 98,415 patients under 18 were treated at hospitals for injuries they had sustained after falling out of a window, which is about 7.3 injuries per 100,000 children, Smith and his colleagues noted in the study.

Toddlers accounted for two-thirds of all cases, with the most common injuries in the head and face. The most frequent diagnoses were soft tissue, brain and head traumas. Only two in 1,000 cases were fatal, with most victims falling from the second floor.

We need to look beyond the major cities, Smith remarked. Most children don't live in high-rise apartments, they live in homes.

Smith said the youngest children are 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 to Reuters. They almost invariably land head-first.

It is important for parents to understand that window screens will not prevent a child from falling out of a window, Smith said. There were many children in our study who pushed a screen out of a window and then fell from the window.

The researchers provided preventative tips for parents, including using window stops and installing window guards on windows on the second story or higher of buildings in which children live or frequent.

In New York, the Health Code requires apartment buildings to install guards on all windows in households with kids under 11.

The findings are based on data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and can be found in the journal Pediatrics.

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