Monday, April 27, 2015

Protecting kids from fatal falls

Some tips on keeping kids safe - without padding them with bubble-wrap before they head out to the park.

Protecting kids from fatal falls

Over 2 million kids, ages 14 and younger, show up in hospital emergency rooms each year with fall-related injuries. Kids tumble down stairs, fall off playground equipment, take spills from bikes, scooters and skateboards – or fall out windows. About 80 die.

While fall-related deaths among kids have dropped in recent years, falls remain a leading cause of unintentional injury for children. Parents can take steps to keep kids safe – without padding them with bubble-wrap before they head out to the park or keeping the training wheels on their bikes til they turn 18.

I was curious about the types of falls that are most common – and most dangerous. One study of national injury data found that these are most common:

Estimated yearly injuries seen in emergency rooms from falls off: 


  • Stairs or Steps: 250,000
  • Playground Equipment: 218,000
  • Beds: 212,000
  • Shopping Carts: 23,000
  • Bleachers: 15,000
  • High chairs and baby seats: 14,000
  • Baby walkers: 4,700
  • Tree houses/Play Houses: 4,000
  • Baby changing tables: 2,700 


I asked Jack Kelly, M.D., associate chairman for the Department of Emergency Medicine at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia what parents should know – and do:

Which falls should concern parents most?

A common fall history is a fall down stairs. Parents/grandparents/babysitters must use safety fences to block stairs. Children need to be supervised ... constantly.

How can parents balance safety on playground with letting kids be kids, take risks, run around and have fun?

At playgrounds, it is essential to know if there is a "soft surface" or if the ground is blacktop or concrete. Falls at a soft surface playground may have less critical injuries. Many playground swings/slides/etc. may be too high and too dangerous for very small children, and parents must be concerned and savvy about this. If the distance of potential fall is twice the height of the child, that is a dangerous height. The child should not be on that ride/swing/slide/monkey bars. Parents will always have to balance letting the child play, with understanding that they are in dangerous territory. We let children play ... but not with matches. Parents need to be smart about this.

What about helmets to prevent head injuries in falls when riding bikes, roller-blading — skiing and sledding, too? Would helmets reduce injuries or severity significantly and should more parents kids wear them?

Helmets for bike riding, skiing, horseback riding and other activities are essential, and as important as seat belts. Parents must mandate that their children wear helmets during these specific activities, and enforce it.

About this blog
The Healthy Kids blog is your window into the latest news, research and advice around children's health. Learn more about our growing list of contributors here.

If you have questions about your child's health, ask them here.

Anna Nguyen Healthy Kids blog Editor
Sarah Levin Allen, Ph.D., CBIS Assistant Professor of Psychology at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Stephen Aronoff, M.D., M.B.A. Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Temple University Hospital
Peter Bidey, D.O. Medical Director of Family Medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Christopher C. Chang, MD, PhD, MBA, FAAAAI, FACAAI Associate Professor of Medicine in division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology at UC Davis
Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D. Lead Psychologist of The Anxiety Behaviors Clinic at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Gary A. Emmett, M.D., F.A.A.P Director of Hospital Pediatrics at TJU Hospital & Pediatrics Professor at Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Magee DeFelice, M.D. Division Chief of Allergy and Immunology at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
Hazel Guinto-Ocampo, M.D. Chief of Pediatric Emergency Services at Nemours duPont Pediatrics/Bryn Mawr Hospital
Rima Himelstein, M.D. Adolescent Medicine Specialist at Crozer-Keystone Health System
Jessica Kendorski, PhD, NCSP, BCBA-D Associate Professor in School Psychology/Applied Behavior Analysis at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Anita Kulick President & CEO, Educating Communities for Parenting
Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA VP for Programs & Research for Prevent Child Abuse America
Beth Wallace Smith, R.D. Registered Dietitian at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Emiliano Tatar, M.D. Pediatrician at Einstein Healthcare Network Roxborough Plaza
Jeanette Trella, Pharm.D Managing Director at The Poison Control Center at CHOP
W. Douglas Tynan, Ph.D., ABPP Director of Integrated Health Care for American Psychological Association
Flaura Koplin Winston, M.D., Ph.D. Scientific Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention
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