High-chair injuries send 1 child every hour to ERs

highchairInjuries related to the use of high chairs increased by more than 22 percent between 2003 and 2010, according to a study in the journal Clinical Pediatrics.

What’s behind the increase is unknown. But the study’s results—which showed that nearly all injuries were related to falls—are a red alert to parents and others who care for toddlers.

“Families may not think about the dangers associated with the use of high chairs,” said study co-author Gary Smith, MD, DrPH. “High chairs are typically used in kitchens and dining areas, so when a child falls from the elevated height of the high chair, he is often falling head first onto a hard surface such as tile or wood flooring with considerable force. This can lead to serious injuries.”

About the study

The study analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS)—which collects information from approximately 100 hospitals in the United States and its territories—from 2003 through 2010.

Researchers combed through emergency department records for injuries among children ages 3 years and younger that were related to both high chairs (including booster seats) and traditional dining chairs. They classified injuries by type, cause and area of the body harmed.

Among their findings:

  • Emergency departments treated an estimated 402,479 injuries related to high chairs and traditional chairs during the eight-year study period.
  • An average of 9,421 injuries related to high chairs were treated every year, which translates to one child injured every hour.
  • Nearly 80 percent of the children injured in high chairs were age 1 year or less.
  • Closed head injuries—which included concussions and internal head injuries—were the most common diagnosis (37 percent) in high chair accidents. These increased in number and rate throughout the study period.
  • The head and neck were most often injured in all types of chair accidents, but most frequently in high-chair incidents (59 percent).
  • 93 percent of high-chair injuries and 87 percent of traditional dining chair injuries were due to falls, often because a child was climbing or standing on the chair versus sitting in it.

Because the study only included injuries treated in emergency departments and not physicians’ offices, the actual number of these types of injuries is likely higher, the authors wrote.

The take-home message
Since the vast majority of injuries were due to falls, the best thing parents can do to prevent high-chair injuries is to use the chair’s safety restraint system, said Dr. Smith.He also offered these safety tips:

  • Use high chairs with either a three-point or five-point harness that includes a crotch strap or post. Don’t rely on the chair’s serving tray to keep a child in the seat.
  • Teach your children that high chairs are for sitting in during mealtimes only—not for playing, climbing or standing on.
  • Never leave a young child unsupervised during meal time, no matter what type of chair he or she is sitting in.

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