This article originally appeared in the July 30, 2009 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Young children often use furniture to gain and hold their balance. Tragically, unsafe furniture can fall and injure or even kill children. More than 264,000 children went to hospital emergency departments in the U.S. between 1990 and 2007 for injuries caused by furniture tip-overs, with 300 of those children dying of their injuries.
Data collected by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) shows a 41% increase since the early 1990s in the number of children injured by falling TVs, shelves, and dressers. Most injuries (about 75%) are in children younger than 6, who most often are hurt by a falling TV.
A report on the statistics appeared in the May 2009 issue of Clinical Pediatrics. The authors speculate that the increase might be due to changes in furniture or TV design, more furniture in homes, or parents taking children to a hospital more readily than in years past.
To reduce risks, the researchers recommend:
· putting TVs on stands that are low to the ground
· attaching TVs and furniture to the wall with safety straps, L-brackets, or even Velcro
· not putting tempting items (like toys and remote controls) on top of furniture or TVs, as kids might try to climb up to retrieve them
They also suggest buying furniture with wide legs or solid bases, installing drawer stops to keep drawers in chests from pulling all the way out, and placing heavy items on shelves close to the floor to help prevent tipping.
If your child is injured — by falling furniture or any other mishap — be sure to seek medical attention right away if he or she is an infant, has lost consciousness (even momentarily) or has any of these symptoms:
· won't stop crying
· complains of head and neck pain
· becomes difficult to console
· isn't walking normally
If your child is not an infant, has not lost consciousness, and is alert and behaving normally after a fall:
· Apply an ice pack or instant cold pack to the injured area for 20 minutes. If you use ice, always wrap it in a washcloth or sock; ice applied directly to bare skin can cause frostbite.
· Observe your child carefully for the next 24 hours. If you notice any signs of an injury, call your doctor immediately.
· If the incident has occurred close to bedtime or naptime and your child falls asleep soon afterward, check in every few hours to look for twitching limbs or disturbances in color or breathing.
Dr. Bob Wilmott is Chief of Pediatrics at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center and is a Professor of Pediatric Medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. If you have a question about your child’s health, go to the “Ask Dr. Bob” section of the Cardinal Glennon Web site at www.cardinalglennon.com.