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As temperatures rise, so do window falls

April 09, 2013
 

Media Contact: Jade.Rivera@baystatehealth.org, 413-794-7633

 

SPRINGFIELD – As temperatures begin to rise, so do concerns about young children falling from windows.

 

According to Safe Kids USA, approximately 18 children under the age of 10 die as a result of falling from a window each year. An estimated 4,700 children ages 14 and under are treated in emergency rooms for injuries sustained from falling out of windows.

 

Many parents don’t realize the risks associated with opening the windows and letting in some fresh air, but the dangers are real.  Physicians here in western Massachusetts are no stranger to injuries from window-falls.  Dr. Kevin Moriarty, chief of Pediatric Surgery at Baystate Children’s Hospital, says “we treat a number of children who fall from windows, especially during May through September, the peak months of the year.”

 

Falls are the third-leading cause of injury death in Massachusetts and the leading cause of injury-related hospital stays and emergency-room visits.  In western Massachusetts, children have been injured seriously enough to be admitted to the hospital. Tragically, in 2009, a 2 ½-year-old Springfield boy died as a result of his injuries after falling from a third-story window. 

 

A recent study showed that window falls increase considerably during the spring and summer months, but they can be prevented. April 8th through the 13th is National Window Falls Prevention Week. On Tuesday, April 9th, Safe Kids of Western Mass., headquartered at Baystate Children’s Hospital, teamed up with Baystate Medical Center’s trauma service, Rep. John Scibak of South Hadley and The Safety Institute for a news conference to stress the importance of window guards.  “If one child in our community gets hurt in a window-fall that is one too many, It is our responsibility to take action” says Scibak (D-South Hadley).

 

Window guards, in combination with parental supervision, are proven to save lives. In New York City and Boston, education and window guard distribution programs resulted in a 96 percent reduction in the incidence of window falls over 10 years. While window guards are the law in New York City, they are not required by Massachusetts General Laws, but are recommended in homes with children ages 6 and under. “There is no substitute for window guards. Screens are designed to keep insects out, they are not strong enough to keep a child from falling,” says Magda Rodriguez, co-coordinator for Safe Kids of Western Mass.

 

So who is at risk?  Research shows children living in multi-unit dwelling buildings have the highest number of window-fall incidents. Window-fall victims are more likely to be male children, under 5 years of age and playing unsupervised at the time of the fall. Also, low-income children are also more likely to be injured from falls due to unsafe environments, including aging or deteriorating housing. It’s recommended that all windows above the first floor are equipped with window guards, preferably those with an emergency release device in case of a fire. 

 

Here are some additional tips from Safe Kids of Western Mass. on how to keep your child safe from window falls:

  • Keep windows locked and closed when they are not being used.
  • Keep furniture away from windows so kids cannot climb to the ledge.
  • Install window stops so that windows open no more than four inches.
  • Supervise children at all times, especially around open windows.
  • Tie the curtain or blind cords out of reach. Children have been strangled while playing with dangling cords.
  • If you have double-hung windows — the kind that can open down from the top as well as up from the bottom — it is generally safer to open the top pane, but growing kids may have enough strength, dexterity and curiosity to open the bottom pane.
  • In the case of a widow fall, never try to move a child who appears to be seriously injured— call 911 and let trained medical personnel move the child with proper precautions.

 

Research also shows that prevention measures should include softening the landing surface below windows to help reduce the severity of injury in case a fall does occur.

 

Safe Kids of Western Mass. works to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading killer of children 14 and under. It is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing accidental injury. For more information about window safety, falls and childproofing, call Safe Kids of Western Mass. at (413) 794-6510.

 

As the area’s only Level 1 Trauma Center, Baystate Medical Center cares for the most seriously ill and injured patients from all over western New England, and continuously works to raise awareness of public-health challenges to improve the health of our community.

 
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