Screens are not enough to protect children from falling out of open windows, U-M doctors urge
Placing a crib, changing table or even a chair next to a window might offer your child a nice view outside or access to fresh air, but be careful – window falls can happen quickly and in some cases, be deadly.
Doctors at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital recommend that adults actively supervise their children when around open windows, avoid opening upper level windows and move furniture away from open windows.
Since the change in weather, there has been a rise of pediatric patients admitted to U-M for injuries sustained in a fall from an open window. Several children have required hospitalization.
Every year, about 3,300 children five and younger are treated for falls from windows, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Children under five years old are the most common age group to be treated for falls from windows. At that age, much of a child’s weight is in their head, so even leaning out of a window can cause them to fall.
“Children younger than 5 are particularly curious about their environment and the events happening outside of a window are a natural draw for a child’s attention,” says Dr. Michelle Macy, Clinical Lecturer of Emergency Medicine at the U-M Medical School. “Relatively large heads make it difficult for them to keep their balance which is particularly true when they are leaning forward, like they do when trying to look out a window.”
Amy Teddy, Injury Prevention Program Manager at Mott, recommends parents do not rely on screens to protect their children from falling.
“A screen is not a safety device,” says Teddy, “They’re designed to keep bugs out, but not to keep children in.”
To prevent falls, U-M doctors urge parents to:
- Make sure windows on upper floors are never open more than a few inches. If a child can fit their head through the open space, a fall can occur.
- Keep furniture away from windows so kids can’t climb to the ledge. Small children that may not be tall enough to reach could use furniture to gain easier access to the opening.
- Keep windows locked and closed when they are not being used.
“Bottom line, parents need to take extra precautions around windows and keep young children within arms-reach when windows are open,” says Macy.
In the case of a fall, never move a child who appears to be seriously injured. Call 911 immediately.
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The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked as one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in the U.S. News Media Group’s 2011 edition of “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals” including third in the country for heart and heart surgery. In November, the hospital moves to a new 1.1 million square feet, $754 million state-of-the-art facility that will be home to cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.
Written by Lauren McLeod