OHSU Researchers Study Pediatric Window-Related Falls

07/25/01    Portland, Ore.

Window-related injuries increased 39 percent from 1999-2000

The number of children who fall out windows has tripled in the last 10 years and increased 39 percent from just 1999 to 2000, according to a Trauma/Critical Care Section study at Oregon Health & Science University. The study looked at 80 children, 6 years and younger, treated at the OHSU Emergency Department from 1993 to 2000. The study also found almost twice as many falls occur during the month of July.

Sixty-five percent of patients who fall from windows are 3 years old or younger and more than half are male. Seventy-five percent of the patients sustained one major injury and more than half were admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. Most of the children sustained head injuries, including brain injury, skull and facial fractures. "These accidents may result in brain damage with permanent, and at times, devastating secondary injuries," said Mark Silen, M.D., chief of surgery at OHSU's Doernbecher Children's Hospital and head of the Division of Pediatric Surgery in the OHSU School of Medicine.

According to the study, which was funded by the Trauma Education and Research Fund of the Department of Surgery, OHSU, most children fall out windows because they are climbing on furniture near the window. Children can easily lean against the screen and push it out the window, or they can fall out an open, unscreened window. "As temperatures increase during the summer months, parents are more likely to open their windows for ventilation," said Slone Pearson, Senior Research Assistant, OHSU Trauma/Critical Care Service. "This greatly increases the likelihood of children falling from windows and explains why twice as many falls occur during July."

The OHSU trauma center offers the following advice to prevent window-related falls: 

  • Lock unopened doors and windows.
       
  • Keep furniture and anything a child can climb on away from windows.
       
  • Screens are designed to keep bugs out and are not strong enough to keep children in. Do not count on them to protect your child.
       
  • Teach your children and their caregivers window and home safety.
       
  • Install child safety window guards.

"In New York, the prevalence of injuries caused by falls from windows decreased 98 percent after the implementation of a public safety campaign and law that required landlords to install window guards in apartments above the first floor," said Pearson. Window guards are designed and tested to withstand 150 pounds of pressure. They can be found at home improvement stores and ordered on the Internet.

"Prevention is the key to avoiding these potentially serious injuries. Anything that parents and families can do to avoid this type of fall is helpful and can potentially eliminate them all together," said Silen.

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