In and around Boston, open windows in the spring and summertime are part of our culture, but there can be a real safety issue when opening windows with young children in the house. Many parents are aware of the hazard, but many also believe that this sort of misfortune will never happen to them. In reality, accidental falls are the number one cause of non-fatal injury for children. Data from the September 2011 issue of Pediatrics showed that 98,145 children had to be taken to the emergency room after sustaining injuries from accidental falls from windows over a 19 year period from 1990 to 2008. Reports show that every year accidental falls out windows are responsible for about eight deaths of children under the age of 5 and about 3,300 trips to the hospital from injuries sustained during a fall. It is also important to note that studies have shown that these falls occur more frequently during the warmer months because windows are more likely to be open to allow fresh air into a stuffy house. The rate of injury is the highest for children younger than five years old, and the injuries sustained by these youngsters are usually more serious. With all of these factors in mind, it is important to implement preventative measures to protect your children. There are simple and easy ways to help prevent children from having access to windows and accidentally falling out of them.
- Keep furniture away from windows—not only is furniture seen as a play structure for young children to climb on, but furniture also allows children to be on the same level as the window, making accidentally tumbling out easier.
- Know that window screens are used to keep insects out, not to keep your children in—if a child falls against a screen, the screen will most likely not support the weight of the child, thereby allowing the child to fall out the window.
- Install window guards—these are easy to install and specifically designed to prevent children from accidentally falling out of windows.
- Plan ahead and create a soft landing surface—plant soft shrubs or a plant bed under windows in the case of a fall to help prevent serious injury.
- Manage clutter—be aware of potential tripping hazards near or around windows.
These simple safety tips can help prevent accidental falling and consequential injuring of a child. Over the weekend, a Brockton child was sent to Children’s Hospital after falling out of a second-floor window in her home. Fortunately, the child did not suffer any life-threatening injuries. However, some children are not this lucky when they accidentally fall out of windows. Therefore, parents need to focus on prevention of such falls. They are easy to prevent and could save the life of your child.
These are precautions to take to protect young children from accidentally falling out windows. However, another age group particularly susceptible to accidental fallings is college students. A 2001 USA Today analysis showed that about 36 college students die every year in accidents involving drugs or alcohol, and many of these deaths are from falls off of windows, balconies, or the like. For these accidents, it is important to have proper safety precautions, but also inform the adolescents of the dangers of drugs and alcohol in these settings. We encounter windows every day of our lives, but almost never think about the hazardous side of things. Awareness is key to protecting ourselves and others against accidental falls from windows.