Cooling Off With Open Windows Can Be A Hazard for Young Children

08/07/00    Portland, Ore.

More Than 30 Kids Are Injured in Oregon Every Year After Falling out of Windows.

Three-year-old Cameron Vansant toddled over to the open window in his grandparents house. He and his 4 year-old brother were supposed to be watching a movie but, like most kids, became bored. Idly, he stuck his finger into a hole on the screen. To his momentary delight the entire screen fell out from the two-story window with a clatter. When his brother turned around, Cameron was gone.

Thankfully, Cameron landed on a small patch of wet grass and miraculously was uninjured. Julie Vansant, Cameron's mother, said that the fall turned out to be an important learning experience. "Always err on the side of caution. Don't ever leave your windows open unless you have regulation standard window guards in place," said Julie. "You can't always watch your children and have to assume they will get in trouble."

At Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital this year, nearly 20 children came to the emergency department after falling out of windows. In 1998 31 children in Oregon were injured. The majority of these cases were boys younger than 6.

Mark Silen, M.D., chief of surgery at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital and the head of the Division of Pediatric Surgery in the OHSU School of Medicine, said that window falls are a common problem. "We probably see one or two window-fall cases a week in Portland. These are tragic incidences for both the parents, because of the guilt, and the children, because of the resulting injuries."

According to the SAFE KIDS Coalition, each year nationwide approximately 18 children under the age of 10 die as a result of falling from windows. An estimated 4,700 children 14 years of age or younger are treated in emergency departments for injuries related to falls from windows.

SAFE KIDS has found that the majority of window-related falls happen during the warmer months when windows are open, and occur more often in highly populated urban areas and low-income housing neighborhoods. Children living in apartment buildings are five times more likely then children living in houses to fall from windows.

Silen recommends that parents with small children install window guards on all windows that can be opened. Since establishing an education and window guard distribution program, and instituting window guard legislation, New York City has seen a 35 percent reduction in window-fall-related fatalities. Moving furniture away from all windows also will increase child safety.