Sadly, a recent report shows that improper and haphazard use of baby and toddler equipment can lead to injuries and even fatalities every year. Playpens, baby swings, and booster seats all seem harmless enough, right? Unfortunately, we often don’t realize the dangers and risks associated with nursery items that almost every child under the age of five uses daily. High chairs, baby baths, and strollers, to name a few, are everywhere and are of great help to parents. These devices should be used with utmost caution, as distracted use, and to a lesser degree, product defects, may lead to severe injury or even death.
This past year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission published a report citing 74,100 emergency room visits in 2011 related to the use of various nursery products. Infant carriers, strollers, cribs, and high chairs were involved in two-thirds of the injuries. The majority of cases involved some form of head injury and usually occurred when babies or toddlers fell. Tragically, over a three year period, from 2007-2009, 341 deaths occurred related to nursery equipment. In these fatal cases, baby baths, cribs, playpens, car seats, and cradles accounted for 89% of the fatalities. Of note is the fact that most injuries and deaths occurred because the equipment was improperly used or set up. Only a small fraction of the incidents were due to product defects. In cases involving cribs or playpens, deaths usually resulted from suffocation by excess bedding. Many injuries and fatalities also occurred due to an unsafe environment surrounding the nursery equipment, such as loose wires and cords, nearby plastic bags, or precarious placement of the equipment. Another trend seen in a large number of cases was the observation that many babies and toddlers were left unattended during the time of the accident. Even in the face of this grim data, parents should realize that many of these accidents could be prevented by increasing their awareness of the fact that young children can and do die from asphyxia when their faces get near pillows and blankets; they can and do strangle from neck jewelry or nearby electrical cords; and they can drown in very small amounts of water.
Keeping a young child safe from accidental injury is a big challenge for all parents. I deeply hope that no family ever has to go through the pain of losing a child. Here are a few tips experts learned from recent data about accidents in young children:
- Don’t leave your child unattended while they are taking a bath or are up high, like in a high chair.
- Try to keep cribs and playpens clear of extra bedding.
- Finally, look around your house and make sure that all nursery equipment is in a safe place, with no loose cords or things that could fall, and ensure that the equipment is sturdy and properly set up.
One child injured is one too many, so let’s all increase our awareness of household dangers posed by baby equipment. Spread the word, won’t you? Until next time.
Written collaboratively by Keri Register and Paul Smolen M.D.