More than 66,000 children under 3 years old end up in the emergency room each year after suffering injuries from accidents in the nursery, according to a long-running study recently published in the journal Pediatrics. Injuries also increased nearly 25 percent in the past eight years of the 20-year study, which ended in December 2011.
Dr. Esther Liu, chair of pediatrics at the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center, says the study shows that such injuries are common — one happens every eight minutes — and parents should make sure they are using all products as intended and pay attention to recalls. She also said manufacturers should work with child safety experts to improve on their designs.
How common are injuries to children under age 3 from accidents involving nursery products?
The new study looked at hospital emergency department visits from January 1991 through December 2011, and found an average of more than 66,200 injuries occur each year in children under 3 years old in incidents involving products in a baby's nursery.
More than half of these injuries occur during a baby's first year of life; infants age 6-11 months account for the highest proportion of injuries. However, these estimates may be low as they only account for injuries cared for in a hospital emergency room and do not account for cases treated in doctor's offices or urgent care centers. Fatalities are also under-reported because pre-hospital deaths may not be transported to an emergency department.
What are the most common types of injuries and how serious are the injuries?
The most common mechanism of injury is a self-precipitated fall, accounting for 80 percent of the injuries, with the most likely area of injury being the head/neck/face. A majority of children who suffered nursery-related injuries are discharged from the hospital's emergency department, but of the patients in this study who required admission to the hospital, approximately 74 percent were less than 1 year old.
Which products are the most likely to be unsafe, and are used products less safe?
In the study, the most common injuries occurred with use of baby carriers, cribs/mattresses, and strollers/carriages.
One-third of product failures were associated with baby carriers, cribs/mattresses were the second most common source of injury and associated with the majority of nursery product-related fatalities, and stroller/carriage injuries are predominantly tip-overs and falls.
It is estimated that 80 percent of recalled nursery products remain in the home, most often because people save items for siblings, give them to others, or resell them online. These are all dangerous practices. People who purchase used products must be diligent about checking recalls and also checking the product for defects or flaws. Significant safety standards were placed in effect in 2011 so products manufactured prior to then should be avoided. Parents can check www.recalls.gov for product information and also sign up for recall email alerts.
How can parents prevent these types of accidents, such as babies falling out of walkers and bouncers?
Parents need to read the product manual and should always fill out the registration cards that come with the product to be notified in case of a recall. Products should be used in the manner they were manufactured for. Many injuries occur due to improper use of restraints or utilizing the product in an unsafe environment (i.e. setting the product on a high surface or near stairs, etc.)
What do manufacturers have to do to make the products safer?
Manufacturers of these products need to work with experts in child safety to create products that are not just appealing to the public but also safe for use.