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Simple steps can reduce children’s injury risk

A study based on a nationally representative sample showed that, on average, 1 child younger than 5 years is treated in an emergency department (ED) every 6 minutes for a stair-related injury.

Researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy found that although from 1999 through 2008 the number of injuries involving stairs decreased by 12%, an estimated 932,000 children younger than 5 years, or more than 93,000 children annually, were treated in US EDs for stair-related injuries. Most (94%) of the injuries occurred in the home. Soft-tissue injuries were the most common, accounting for 35% of cases, followed by lacerations and puncture wounds (26%). The most common body regions injured were the head and neck (76%), followed by the upper extremities (11%).

Although most children fell down stairs without the seeming involvement of another object or activity, children younger than 1 year were more likely than older children to be injured while they were being carried down the stairs or while they were in a baby walker or stroller. One-fourth of injuries to children younger than 1 year occurred while the child was being carried on the stairs; these children were more than 3 times likely to be hospitalized than children injured by other mechanisms.

Researchers say that stair-related injuries could be prevented with a combination of parental education, use of stair gates, and improved stairway design. Among the simple precautions they recommend are to keep stairs free of clutter and in good repair, to avoid carrying a child on the stairs when possible, and to use stationary activity centers instead of baby walkers.

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