The number of babies and toddlers who are showing up at hospital emergency departments with injuries related to baby carriers, cribs, strollers and other nursery products is on the rise, according to a study published earlier this week in the journal Pediatrics.
Such injuries had declined by 33 percent from 1991 to 2003, primarily due to a massive drop in the number of children tumbling out of baby walkers, which government regulators required to be redesigned for safety purposes in 1994.
After 2003, however, injuries associated with nursery products began to climb again — by about 24 percent by 2011.
Today, about 66,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 3 are treated in emergency departments — or about one child every eight minutes, the study found.
“We have achieved great success in preventing baby walker-related injuries by improving the design of the product and instituting better safety standards,” said Dr. Gary Smith, the senior author of the study and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, in a released statement. “We now need to aggressively apply this approach to other nursery products. It is unacceptable that we are still seeing so many injuries to young children from these products.”
Primarily a home hazard
For their study, Smith and his colleagues analyzed U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission data collected from 100 hospitals, including eight children’s hospitals, from 1991 through 2011.
During that 21-year period, the researchers concluded, an estimated 1.3 million children under the age of three were treated in U.S. emergency departments for nursery product-related injuries. More than half of those injuries occurred during the first year of the child’s life, and slightly more than a third occurred between the ages of 6 and 11 months.
The majority of the injuries — almost 88 percent — occurred in the child’s home.
The most common products associated with the injuries were seat-type baby carriers (19.5 percent of the injuries), cribs or mattresses (18.6 percent), strollers (16.5 percent) and walkers, jumpers or exercisers (16.2 percent).
Most of the injuries were due to falls and involved the child’s head and/or neck. About 4 percent of the injured children (52,000) in the study were admitted to the hospital, and 0.2 percent of them (2,600) died. The deaths were overwhelmingly (73.4 percent) associated with cribs and mattresses and resulted from suffocation or strangulation.
Parents and other children’s caregivers should “not place bumper pads or soft objects, such as blankets or pillows, in the crib because of the risk of strangulation, entrapment, and suffocation,” the researchers warn.
The study was not designed to determine why nursery-product-related injuries are on the rise, but Smith and his colleagues note that at least part of the increase was driven by a rise in the number and rate of concussions, a type of injury that is much more likely to be diagnosed today than it was a decade ago, due to increased public awareness.
Know the ‘four Rs’
In a media release that accompanies the study, the researchers urge parents and other caregivers to follow four safety Rs before buying or using a nursery product:
Research the product: Before bringing a new nursery product into the home, go online and look at information from a trusted organization [such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission] for what types of products are both useful and safe for your baby. They will have the newest research and the most up-to-date recommendations.
Check for recalls: Go to http://www.recalls.gov and search the products you’re considering bringing into your home to see if they have been recalled. While you are there, sign up to receive alerts about future recalls. There is a new recall for a nursery product about every two weeks in the U.S., and up to 80% of recalled children’s products remain in homes following a recall.
Register your product: When you bring a new product into your home, make sure to register your purchase with the manufacturer. This will ensure you’re notified if the product is recalled. There’s usually a postcard that comes with the product or the packaging might direct you to complete a form on the manufacturer’s website.
Read the manual: Take a few minutes to read the manual before you use it so you can learn how the product works, when to lock it, when to buckle, where to use it, and where not to use it. You also want to confirm that the product is the right one for your child’s age and size.
FMI: You can read the study in full on Pediatric’s website.