Emergency rooms treat approximately 5,100 children who've fall out of windows every year, and more education is needed to bring that number down, new research shows.
Researchers from Nationwide Children's Hospital and Ohio State University used emergency room data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System to analyze the cases of 3,974 children who suffered injuries after falling out of windows between 1990 and 2008.
Using those data, researchers estimated that emergency rooms across the United States treated an estimated 98,415 children for injuries related from falling out of windows during the study period, equal to about 5,100 children a year, or 14 children a day.
"We've known that falls from windows are a problem for children, and we've known that for decades," said study co-author Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "The best parent in the world can't watch their children 100 percent of the time. Children want to check things out, and they don't know that an open window is a danger that has very severe consequences."
Injuries decreased in younger children
Injury rates for children younger than five decreased substantially during the first few years of the study, but leveled out starting in about 2000.
Even with that decrease, by 2008 these children still accounted for roughly two-thirds of emergency room visits related to falling out of windows in the study of all children ages 17 and under, Smith told MyHealthNewsDaily.
Younger children are "the most important group," Smith said. "They're the group we should focus our prevention efforts on."
The researchers categorized injuries by the sex of the child and the part of the body that was injured.
The data showed that boys are more likely than girls to suffer window-related injuries. About a quarter of patients who went to the emergency room were hospitalized, and nearly 50 percent of children had injuries to their heads or faces.
Head injuries were especially common in younger children.
Children have higher centers of gravity than adults, Smith said. "When children lean out… they topple forward and they land head first," he said. "That's why we see such a predominance of head injuries."
While data describing the circumstances of these injuries were sparse, researchers think that many children were able to reach windows by standing on furniture. Also, screens were unlikely to help prevent falls, Smith said.
The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System is a database developed to monitor injuries associated with sports activities, recreational activities and consumer products from a sample of 100 hospitals with 24-hour emergency departments throughout the United States.
The data also didn't reflect children who died before they reached the emergency room, children with injuries that didn't require a visit to the emergency room and children whose parents sought a different type of medical care.
Still, the study has a lot of merit, said David Mooney, director of the Trauma Program at Children's Hospital Boston.
Decades ago, big public information campaigns were initiated in cities across the United States, especially in New York City and Boston, Mooney said. As a result, injury rates resulting from falling out of windows dropped.
"I was kind of surprised that things haven't changed since 2000," Mooney said. "One of the problems with success is that it breeds complacency. This one has fallen off of a lot of people's radar in the last few years."
A problem we can preven
Both Smith and Mooney agreed that the study results call for a renewed public education campaign to prevent falls from windows.
Precautions such as window guards — devices that block kids from exiting open windows — and window stops — which prevent windows from opening more than four inches — can help prevent these injuries.
Other measures, such as moving furniture away from windows and placing soft landing surfaces such as bushes beneath windows, can also help keep children safe, the researchers said.
"This is a continuing serious childhood injury problem in this country, and we know what works," Smith said. "We need to apply what we have learned in the past from New York City and Boston. This is a problem we can prevent; we need to do more about it."
Pass it on: Thousands of children suffer injuries each year due to falling from windows, and simple precautions such as installing window guards and moving furniture away from windows can help keep kids safe.