24 kids a day treated for high chair-related injuries

High chair falls injure a child every hour but regular chairs are worse

Published: December 09, 2013 05:30 PM

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Every hour a child is treated in an emergency room for injuries related to a high chair. The majority of them are hurt in falls and many suffer such head injuries as concussions. Worse, the number of high chair-related injuries is on the rise suggesting that children are not being properly restrained in their seats. That’s the conclusion of a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

“Families may not think about the dangers associated with the use of high chairs,” said Gary Smith, MD, director of the center. “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.”

The study examined data relating to children ages three and younger who were treated for high chair-related injuries in U.S. emergency rooms from 2003 to 2010, an average of 9,400 a year. Injuries increased over the period of the study. Nearly all of the injuries, 93 percent, involved a fall. Two-thirds of the children were climbing on the chair or standing in it right before they fell, suggesting that they were not restrained at all or not properly restrained. Concussions and internal head injuries were the most common result of the falls followed by bumps and bruises, and cuts. The number of head injuries increased by almost 90 percent during the course of the study  
Parents and caregivers may assume that snapping on the chair’s tray is enough to keep a child in the seat, but that’s not the case. "The number one thing parents can do to prevent injuries related to high chairs is to use the safety restraint system in the chair," said Dr. Smith. Here are some other tips from the center:

  • Make harness use a habit. Look for chairs with a 3-point or 5-point harness and a crotch post. Then secure the harness every time you use the chair, so it becomes part of your child’s routine.
  • Use the high chair at mealtime only. Teach your child that the high chair is for sitting and eating, and not for climbing. And make sure older siblings don’t climb on it either.
  • Keep the area around the high chair clear. Make sure everything on the dining table—food, silverware, tablecloth—is out of reach. And place the chair away from the wall so the child can’t kick it and knock the chair over.
  • Don’t leave a child unsupervised. Stay with your child during mealtime. Children left alone are more apt to try to escape.
  • Check for recalls. Millions of high chairs have been recalled in recent years. Check yours by searching the saferproducts.gov website.
  • Look for a chair that’s stable. Chairs with wider bases are often more stable. To find a reliable chair, check our high chair safety scores.

Finally, don’t assume that a traditional chair is safer. Four times as many children are treated in emergency rooms from falls from regular chairs, according to the study. Falling and jumping were the leading causes of injuries, which included broken bones, cuts and bruises.

—Artemis DiBenedetto

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