Window fall-related injuries are responsible for about 14 emergency department visits by children aged 17 or younger each day in the USA, or 5,200 annually, according to a study carried out by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The authors explained that parents are not fully aware of how frequently windows cause serious accidents and injuries.

The investigators had gathered data on window fall-related injuries among children aged up to 17 years and were treated in emergency department from 1990 through 2008. Their study is being published in the journal Pediatrics, September 2011 issue.

65% of the injuries involved children aged up to 4 years. This age group was also found to have the highest rate of serious injuries and death.

Not surprisingly, the authors found that those who fell on a hard surface, or whose fall was from a third storey or above, had the most serious injuries.

49% of injuries were to the head or face, with soft tissue injury being the most frequently diagnosed (41%), followed by brain/head injury (26%).

Senior author, Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, said:

“Window fall injuries are serious. In fact, one out of every four children in our study was hospitalized as a result of their injury. We know from successful programs in New York City and Boston (community education programs re: window fall prevention) that child injuries due to falls from windows can be prevented. We need to do a better job of protecting our children from these types of serious injuries.”

Over 190 kids with injuries who ended up in emergency departments had reached a window by climbing on nearby furniture. The authors urged parents to make sure that all furniture be placed strategically away from windows in the interest of young children’s safety.

Dr. Smith, said:

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

The researchers say that to protect children from injury, parents, guardians and caregivers should:

  • Bear in mind that window-screens are not strong enough to prevent children from falling out
  • Bushes and flower beds placed directly under windows may help soften a landing, resulting in a lower risk of serious injury if a child falls
  • Explain to older children that climbing out of windows, or jumping from them can be extremely dangerous
  • Keep all furniture away from windows
  • Make sure that all higher windows have window guards
  • Make sure window-stops are used for open windows – the window should not open more than 4 inches
  • Young children should be kept away from balconies, roofs and fire escapes

In this study, the researchers examined data from NEISS (National Electronic Injury Surveillance System), a nationally representative sample from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Written by Christian Nordqvist