Keep your eyes open and your windows shut
With nicer weather, the risk of children falling out of windows increases
A surprising cool front has broken the typical 100 degree August heat, but it may also be putting Texas' kids at risk.
Placing a crib, changing table or 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 to anyone and in some cases, can be deadly. Safe Kids Tarrant County, a program within Cook Children’s Community Health Outreach department, recommends that adults actively supervise their children when around open windows. Toddlers have been known to fall out of windows open as little as five inches.
Sharon Evans, Trauma/Injury Prevention coordinator at Cook Children’s, worries that the early cooler weather could produce even worse numbers than the previous year.
From Oct. 1, 2014, to Oct. 21, 2015, Cook Children's cared for 13 children who had fallen from a second or third story window from Oct. 1 2014. During that time frame, one child died.
This is definitely a ‘fair weather’ injury and children 3 to 4 years old seems to be the highest risk,” Evans said. “In talking to parents, we’ve also found that families with special needs children, such as autism, have a special concern about falling out of windows. It’s more common than I ever thought.
“Some families have to worry about the kids just wandering off, but the impulse control is missing in a lot of these children so if they see something out the window they will sometimes dive to get it.”
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, on average eight children ages 5 and under die each year as a result of falling out of windows, and 3,300 are injured. In Safe Kids’ 2015 Report to the Nation: Protecting Children in Your Home, 70 percent of parents surveyed said they had never used window guards or stops that prevent windows from opening.
Another concern according to that same report is the risk of window blind cords. On average a child dies almost every month from strangling in window blind cords. To protect children, cords and strings should be kept out of reach of children and cribs, beds and furniture should be placed away from windows and cribs.
Cook Children's and Safe Kids Tarrant County strongly recommend window guards on all windows above the first floor, preferably guards equipped with an emergency release device in case of fire.
“A screen is not a safety device,” said Dana Walraven, Cook Children’s Community Health Outreach manager and Safe Kids Tarrant County coordinator. “It’s designed to keep insects out, not to keep children in. Proper safety guards on windows save lives.”
A pilot program in New York City showed that window guards reduce window fall-related deaths by up to 35 percent. “In an apartment in a high-rise building, window guards should be considered essential safety equipment,” Walraven said.
Walraven also reminds parents and caregivers:
- Install window guards to prevent children from falling out of windows. For windows above the first floor, install window guards with an emergency release device in case of fire.
- Install window stops so that windows open no more than 4 inches.
- Keep windows locked and closed when they are not being used.
- Keep furniture away from windows so kids can’t climb to the ledge.
- 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.
- Never try to move a child who appears to be seriously injured after a fall — call 911 and let trained medical personnel move the child with proper precautions.
- Consider using cordless window products in your home if you have young children or if they visit your home frequently.
- Check all Roman blinds and roll up shades in your home — kids have been strangled while playing with dangling cords. If looped pull cords, exposed inner cords, or exposed lifting loops are found, replace the blinds or shades with products that do not have exposed pull cords or inner cords.
For more information
Cook Children's partners with the community to raise awareness and meet learning centered around injury prevention and child safety. Whether it is the correct use of a car seat, drowning prevention education in the schools, or providing a better awareness of poison hazards to new moms, we are working to create safe homes and communities for children. Learn more here.