After experiencing more than a month of consecutive hot days with temperatures over 80 degrees, the cooler air has many Minnesotans shutting off air conditioners and opening windows. Unfortunately, this also opens the opportunity for a child to fall out of a window and experience serious – and sometimes fatal – injuries.
Falls from windows injure more than 5,100 children on average each year in the U.S., and most could be prevented with simple window safety measures. These falls often occur in the child’s own home, over the warmer months when families leave windows and doors to balconies open both during the day and at night. Children aged from one to five years are most at risk as they are naturally curious but lack the ability to recognize danger.
“The type of landing surface also plays a major role in the severity of head injuries caused by window falls,” explains HCMC Trauma Prevention Specialist Julie Philbrook, RN. “Children who land on a hard surface, like concrete, are twice as likely to suffer head injuries, be hospitalized, or die from their injuries compared with those who landed on ‘cushioned’ surfaces like grass.”
One study done by The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio and published in Pediatrics, showed an estimated 98,415 children were treated in hospital emergency rooms from 1990 to 2008 for injuries caused by falls from windows. Injuries ranged from cuts and bruises to fatal head injuries, and young children were most at risk for serious injuries.
Placing bushes or plant beds underneath windows can create a cushioned landing surface and reduce the impact of falls from windows for children of all ages.
“Prevention is always the best approach, and that means supervising children and making sure that structural window safety measures are also in place,” says Philbrook.
HCMC admits an average of 11 children a year between the ages 0-17 who have fallen from windows.
Window Safety for Children
Children can fall out of a window which is open more than 4 inches, even if a screen is present.
To prevent children falling from your windows:
- All windows above the ground floor to be opened no more than 4 inches.
- All windows have window locks/latches fitted to stop windows opening more than 4 inches, or guards to protect the opening
- Where possible, open windows from the top.
- Beds and other furniture are kept away from windows, so that children cannot climb up to windows.
- Parents should not rely on screens to prevent a child from falling out of a window.
- Children should be taught to play away from windows.
- Children are always supervised.