Friday, March 7, 2014

Highchairs = High Danger for Your Child

We recently reported on the increase in child injuries from shopping cart accidents. Now, a new study tells us that your infant child may be in danger right in your own home – that emergency room visits resulting from injuries caused by accidents involving high chairs and booster seats now average nearly 10,000 yearly. Even more disturbing: the rate of these high chair injuries increased between the years of 2003 and 2010 by a whopping 22 percent.  Other disturbing stats from the study:
  • Concussions and other internal head injuries resulted 37 percent of high chair falls.
  • About 60 percent of children received a head or neck injury from their high chair fall.
  • Nearly 30 percent received a facial injury from the fall.
  • Bumps and bruises occurred in 33 percent of the falls.
With a rate of one injured infant per hour, it’s time to look at what causes these potentially deadly high chair accidents, what accounts for the alarming increase, and what you can do to protect your youngsters.



Why toddlers are at greatest risk of high chair injuries

Top-heavy tendencies
The study, performed by The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, analyzed the data (which included high chair, booster seat, and normal chair-related injuries) and found that more than 90 percent of these ER-level injuries involved falls with younger toddlers.  The researcher theorized that children at this age have a high center of gravity compared to adults.  Their chest-centered balance (as compared to waist-centered with adults) makes them prone to toppling out.  Furthermore, their top-heavy bodies cause them to fall head-first, as the data shows; 85 percent of the injuries were to the head and face.
Hard floors and high falls
Two more significant factors in the seriousness of the injuries from high chair falls are:
  • High chairs are, as the name implies, traditionally higher than normal kitchen chairs or restaurant seating, which means the child has a long flight to the floor.
  • Floors of food service areas, whether in a home or restaurant, are most often a hard, uncarpeted surface.  While this makes for easier cleanup from spills, a hard kitchen floor provides no buffer on impact from a highchair fall.
The combination of the hard floor and the long fall is a grave one for the airborne toddler.
Chair restraints not being used
The data showed that nearly two thirds of all high chair accidents occurred when the child was standing or climbing in the high chair before they fell.  In most cases, this is a situation that parents can control, as most highchairs have restraints that, if used, reduce the likelihood that the child can put themselves into a precarious posture.


Accounting for the increase in injuries


Why did high chair and booster chair injuries rise from 8,926 to 10,930 in the seven years leading up to 2011? Researchers concluded that three causes are the most likely:
  • The chair restraints are not working properly.
  • Parents are not using the chair restraints.
  • Parents are not using the chair restraints properly.
There is no question that, in some cases, the efficacy or design of the chair restraints are at fault. During the years of the study data, nearly four million high chairs were recalled for not meeting safety standards or for specific design flaws. The study leaders pointed out that the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act will likely result in a recall reduction over time.


What you can do to protect your children


Important steps for parents to take:
  • Use the high chair safety restraints. The researchers concluded that this step alone will have the biggest impact on safeguarding children. Do note that the highchair tray is not a reliable safeguard!
  • Monitor your children. Even if you use the chair restraints, squirming children can cause their high chair to tip over. Make sure an adult is watching your child in a high chair at all times.
  • Lock the wheels. If the high chair has wheels, use their wheel locks.  On a hard, smooth surface, such as the normal kitchen floor, a child’s movement can cause a chair to roll to an unsafe area.
  • Choose carefully the position of the high chair. When placed near walls or counters, children can push against the object, tipping the chair.
  • Watch for recalls.  Even the most caring parents may not be aware of a manufacturer recall related to a model of chair they have purchased. Before buying or borrowing a high chair, check first for high chair recalls at http://www.recalls.gov.
While you cannot prevent all accidents, your actions as a parent can substantially reduce the chances of a high chair fall injury by following these guidelines.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

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