Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injuries for children less than 19 years of age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 8,000 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for fall-related injuries.
Types of fall-related injuries
There are many different types of fall-related injuries that require medical care by a physician or other healthcare professional. The severity of the injuries will vary depending on the conditions of the fall. Those that result in head injuries are the most severe. In fact, falls are responsible for 50 percent of traumatic brain injuries in children ages 0 to 14.
Children of a certain age are more prone to certain types of falls. Infants are more likely to fall from furniture, while toddlers are more likely to fall from windows. Older children sustain more fall-related injuries from playground equipment. Preschoolers and children with physical limitations are at the greatest risk because they have a higher center of gravity. Children can also become injured by something falling on them, such as furniture, a television or shopping cart.
Tips for preventing fall-related injuries
Fall prevention - at home
Most unintentional fall-related injuries happen at home.
- Move furniture away from windows.
- Use furniture straps to secure all dressers, TV stands, bookshelves and any other top-heavy furniture or furniture that may become top heavy when a drawer is opened.
- Remove items that are appealing to children from the top of furniture.
- Do not allow your child to play or jump on furniture.
- Never leave babies alone on any furniture, even if they have never rolled over.
When selecting furniture for your new baby
- Choose baby products that meet required safety standards, and use all safety straps and features.
- Check every item for recalls.
- Register every item so you will be notified if there is a safety recall in the future.
- Choose a changing table that has a 2-inch (5 cm) guardrail around all four sides, is lower in the middle and has a buckle. Keep all necessary supplies within reach.
- Look for highchairs and baby swings with a wide base so they can’t be tipped over easily.
- Do not use a crib that has drop sides, and make sure there are no missing, broken or loose parts.
- Replace baby walkers with playpens or stationary play centers.
- Avoid furniture that is top heavy and can be easily tipped.
- Secure all TVs to the wall with a television strap or mount them to the wall.
- Remove clutter.
- Secure area rugs with foam carpet backing, double-sided tape or a rubber pad.
- Keep stairways well-lit and free of clutter.
- Make sure all stairways have stair gates at the top and bottom, and that the top gate is mounted to the wall
- Do not use baby walkers with wheels.
- Do not rely on insect screens to keep children from falling out of windows.
- Install window guards on all windows above the first floor.
- Use window stops to prevent a window from opening.
Following safety measures in and around the home can help prevent falls. There are many products available to help make your home a safe place for your children, but every home is different and not all home safety products will work for every family. The most important safety device is constant supervision. Children are curious. It’s natural for them to explore and they need an adult to help guide them to safe discoveries.
Visit the Safety Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to purchase safety products for your home at low prices.
Fall prevention - safe shopping
Injuries resulting from a shopping cart tipping over or falling over can be severe.
Here are a few things to remember when shopping with your child:
- Do not put an infant carrier on top of the shopping cart. Consider using a front backpack or stroller instead of the shopping cart.
- Always buckle your youngster into his infant carrier with the provided harness.
- Shop at stores that provide carts designed to allow kids to ride closer to the ground.
- Do not allow older kids to stand in or on any part of the shopping cart.
- Keep older kids occupied while shopping by giving them their own shopping list and asking them to help you find specific items.
- When planning a shopping trip try to bring another adult with you to help supervise the child while you shop.
Fall prevention - at play
Backyard play sets and community playgrounds can be the highlight of your child’s day. They both offer the benefits of physical activity and encourage children to learn new skills. When choosing a playground, consider the following:
- Is the play equipment age appropriate for my child? Look for the sticker. Manufacturers are required to have a sticker placed on each piece of equipment indicating the appropriate age group it is designed for.
- Are the other children’s ages appropriate for my child?
- Am I able to stay within an arm’s reach of my child while he or she is on climbing equipment?
- Does this play area have adequate surfacing, such as sand, wood chips, or rubberized matting, to help absorb falls? Is there a railing or safety gate around any surface that is above the ground?
You can further prevent falls by supervising your children on the playground at all times and teaching them how to avoid falls with these pointers:
- Do not cross directly in front of or behind swings.
- Always sit in the middle of the seat on the swing and hold on with two hands.
- Swings are not for sharing. Only one child per swing.
- Always use the ladder to climb to the top of the slide. Never climb up the sliding surface.
- Leave the bottom of the slide as soon as you reach it and allow the next child to slide down safely.
Online resources - safety and injury prevention
This information was compiled from a variety of sources, including the online resources listed below, but is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician.
We hope you find the sites below helpful, but please remember we do not control or endorse the information presented on these websites, nor do these sites endorse the information contained here.
Safe Kids USA
American Academy of Pediatrics
Center for Disease Control
Reviewed by: Gina Duchossois
Date: February 2013