Accidental falls are the leading source of injury to children, with those under the age of four representing the largest group requiring hospitalization. A fall can occur just about anywhere— from inside the home to at the park or the school playground. There are a number of steps that you can take to make sure that your home is a safe place for your child to play and to recognize hazards away from the home that your child may encounter so that you can reduce the likelihood of a fall from occurring.
Places Where Falls May Occur
Education on falls is one of the most effective means by which we can prevent them and it starts with knowing all of the locations where a potential fall can occur. While it is possible for children to be injured outdoors or on the playground, the overwhelming majority of falls take place inside of the home. Consider all of the following locations where a child could fall so that you are more readily able to provide countermeasures.
- Baby walkers— over the last twenty years, we have seen a steady decline in the use of baby walkers. This is for good reason, as many medical organizations have questioned their safety. Walkers make it possible for babies to trip over objects and to access objects that are a danger, including stovetops, heaters, and pools.
- Windows— many parents have a false sense of security when it comes to screened windows. A screen will not prevent a child from falling through an open window, so it is best to place a barrier in front of an open window and to open all windows from the top, not the bottom.
- Stairs— falls downstairs can be catastrophic, but they are easily prevented through the placement of child safety gates. You should also never leave a child unsupervised in an area close to a staircase.
- Loose carpeting— floor rugs and loose carpets can present a slip hazard, which results in many injuries to children under the age of five. Consider keeping floor rugs and other loose objects out of the possible paths your children will walk to reduce the risk of slip and trip type accidents.
- Beds— you should never leave a child unattended on top of a bed, as it is possible for the child to crawl or roll off of the bed. Children sleeping in bunk beds are also at risk of falling and this risk can be reduced by purchasing bunk beds with safety rails to keep your children from rolling out.
- Playgrounds— many children are injured while falling from playground equipment, so it is important to evaluate each playground’s safety equipment before allowing a child to play there. The ground should be covered in some form of material to lessen the impact of falls such as mulch, rubber, or wood pulp and children should be supervised when using elevated equipment or swings.
- Pools— slip, trip, and fall injuries are common at pools where children are allowed to run or roughhouse around the swimming area. Make sure your children understand the importance of walking rather than running to avoid slipping and falling.
- Bathtubs— the slick floor of a bathtub can increase the risk of falls, especially among small children. The use of a bath mat can reduce the risk by providing traction.
- Balconies and porches— children may be able to climb over porch or balcony railings, posing a serious risk of death. Never allow your child to play or remain unsupervised while on a porch or balcony for this reason.
- Sports injuries— falls while playing sports can result in injuries such as broken bones, sprains or traumatic brain injuries. The severity of these injuries can be greatly reduced through the use of proper safety equipment and safe coaching practices.
Always be proactive when it comes to fall prevention by constantly assessing where falls may occur in your home and considering how you can prevent your child from gaining access to hazards. The use of child safety gates, removal of clutter, and supervising your children will all go a long way to keeping them safe.