931,886 children under five were taken to hospital emergency departments from 1999 to the end of 2008 in the USA, researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, reported in the journal Pediatrics. Over that period the total yearly number of stair-related injuries for that age group dropped 11.6%, the authors added.
A child under 5 years is taken to an emergency department every six minutes for a stair-related injury in America.
The research team gathered data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission for the period 1999-through 2008.
Senior author, Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, said:
"While we are pleased to see a declining trend in the number of stair-related injuries, stairs continue to be a common source of injury among young children. Through a combination of educating parents, use of stair gates, and modifying building codes to make stairs safer, we can prevent these types of injuries."
Most children who fall down the stairs do so without any object or activity related to the fall, the authors wrote. Those aged up to twelve months tend to have an injury while they were being carried, in their baby walker, or in their stroller.
One quarter of injuries experienced by children up to the age of twelve months occurred while somebody was carrying them. They were found to be three times more likely to be hospitalized than those injured in stairs due to other causes.
The authors reported that:
- 931,886 children under 5 were treated for injuries related to falling down the stairs from 1999 through 2008
- There were 46.6 injuries per 10,000 population each year; average during the study period. A drop from 53.0 to 42.4
- The total yearly number of injuries dropped 11.6% during the period studied
- 2.7% of children under five brought to emergency departments for stair-related injuries were hospitalized
- 35% of injured children had soft tissue injuries - the most common type
- 26% had puncture wounds or lacerations
- 76% had head or neck injuries - the most common body regions to be affected
- 11% had upper extremity injuries - the second most common body region to be affected
- Keep stairs in good order
- Keep stairs clutter free
- Stair gates should be fitted to the bottom and top of stairs. Although gates are effective in reducing injury risk, adult supervision is vital
- When possible, do not carry a child up or down the stairs
- If you have to carry a child, do not carry other things too, and hold onto the handrail
- Do not use strollers or carriages with a child inside on the stairs
- Avoid using mobile baby walkers
- Teach your child to hold onto the handrail all the time
- If the small child wishes to carry something on the stairs, teach them to ask an adult to help them
- Teach the child to walk up and down stairs, and not run
- Explain to the child that the stairs are not for jumping on or playing in