Dangers faced by kids on the stairs

March 12, 2012 2:56:09 PM PDT
A new study today is calling for changes in home building and home safety. The reasons? More children are getting hurt.

Since 1999, nearly a million children under age 5 ended up in the hospital because of falls on the stairs.

The bruises are gone from little Will Garbrant's face, but his mother Chris can still feel the emotional trauma from when Will took a terrifying fall down the stairs.

It happened the very day she was to get new safety gates.

"I just opened the gate to get something from the kitchen, turned around and Will was tumbling toward the end of the stairs," she said.

A new study shows that stair-related falls with even more serious injuries than Will's are common.

The good news is a drastic drop in the use of rolling baby walkers has helped reduce the numbers.

"The bad news is, though, unfortunately we're still seeing a child every 6 minutes rushed to an emergency department because of a stair related injury," Dr. Gary Smith said.

Smith, of the Center for Injury Research and Policy, found that 3 out of 4 kids who were hurt on the stairs suffered head and neck injuries.

In children under a year old, one in four was injured while being carried by an adult

Experts say in homes with young children, there should be a gate attached to the wall at the top of the stairs and at least a tension mounted wall at the bottom.

Dr. Smith says few homes are built to even allow those options.

"Two out of three homes cannot accommodate a wall mounted gate at the top of the stairs. And one out of three cannot accommodate a pressure mounted gate at the bottom of the stairs," he said.

One problem may lie in current building codes and how stairs are being constructed.

Dr. Smith would like to see design and building codes changes to make home stairs safer for the children and their families.

"The stairs should be uniform. If you sight down a flight of stairs, the leading edge of the stairs, including at the very top landing, should all line up. Very commonly, especially in new homes, that top stair is misaligned," he said.

Two more things Dr. Smith told us: keep toys off the stairs and never allow children to play on stairs.

This study appears in the medical journal Pediatrics.

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