Watch that Step: Stair-related injuries still common

Do you have stairs in your home?

I recently saw a toddler for an accidental fall down stairs.  It reminded me of a recent study published in Pediatrics showing that, although stair-related injuries aren’t happening as much as they did in the past, they are still more common than they should be.  Statistics show that a child is brought to the ER for a fall on the stairs about every 6 minutes on average.

A third of the injuries involved infants 12 months or younger.  Not surprising since this is the stage of newfound mobility.  Crawling and pulling up.  Walking and climbing.  Curiosity and a motivation to explore also sky-rocket at this age.

However, in 25% of falls involving infants 12 months old or younger, the child was actually being held by an adult.  This points to the reality of what often takes place at home.  In the process of multi-tasking and getting things done, we hold a baby in our arms and go up or down stairs to take care of things around the house.  Sometimes we may be distracted or rushed.  Sometimes we are trying to carry multiple things, baby included.

There are some simple ways we can protect our children from such accidents:

Have a handrail that is sturdy and easy to wrap your entire hand around.

Always keep one hand free to hold on to the handrail if you have a child in your arms.  Slow down, focus, and take extra care with each step.

Install baby gates.  Hard-mounted gates are more secure.  Pressure-mounted gates can loosen and give way over time, so they are not as reliable.  If you use pressure-mounted gates, only use them at the bottom of the staircase.

Consider ways to mark each step so it is either more visible or has better traction to prevent slipping.

Keep stairs clear of toys and miscellaneous items.  There will always be a mess if children are around.  But a mess on stairs is particularly dangerous.

Don’t assume what your child can or can not do.  Infants develop rapidly and acquire new skills in a matter of days.  Older children may be physically capable to do things on their own, but often lack the attention or care to avoid injuries.

We can’t prevent every accident.  Hardly so.  Nor do we need to be overly protective and cautious.

But hopefully we can avoid some that are easily preventable.  We all can benefit from a reminder that stairs are a significant source of injury for children, even if they seem to be held safely in our arms.


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