BC Children’s Hospital and BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) are encouraging parents and caregivers to keep children safe near open windows and on balconies.
Over this summer, at least 11 children have been treated at BC Children’s after falling from a window and two of those children have since passed away.
In these three months alone (June, July and August), the total is approaching the number for all of last year.
In 2020, 14 children aged 16 and younger were treated at BC Children’s Emergency Department for falls from high elevations, such as windows and balconies.
These events are tragic. They are something no parent ever expects will happen to their child.
The main types of injuries children sustain from falls from windows or balconies are head injuries and fractures to shoulders and upper arms.
“The injuries we see from window falls are often devastating for everyone involved,” says BC Children’s Trauma Manager Michelle Dodds. “It’s devastating for the child, who’s had this big and awful thing happen, and the other family members as well, who are sometimes struggling with emotional trauma from the event and logistics of having a child injured or in the hospital.”
Most falls from windows or balconies involve children aged 6 and under. The majority occur at home and happen when the weather is warmer, between April and September.
Any time you are opening a window in your house or apartment, please remember to take a moment to pause and consider whether there will be children near that window.
“I want to encourage parents and caregivers to be extra vigilant and keep children safe near windows and balconies,” says BCEHS Advanced Care Paramedic Ryan Stefani. “As a paramedic for the past 15 years, I have responded to these types of calls, where young ones have fallen and sustained serious or even fatal injuries – it’s heart-breaking. Please follow our fall prevention tips, protect your loved ones and have a safe, enjoyable summer.”
Toddlers are especially vulnerable to window falls because they are curious, they love to climb and often don’t recognize when they are putting themselves at risk. Because they have a higher centre of gravity, toddlers can easily fall headfirst through a window screen if they lean against it.
Remember, screens keep bugs out, not children in!
How to prevent falls
Window and balcony safety tips:
* Don’t leave children unattended on balconies or decks.
* Move furniture and planters – or anything that can be climbed on – away from windows, balcony railings and balcony door handles. Lock balcony doors.
* Install window guards on windows above the ground floor. Fasten windows so that they cannot open more than 10 centimetres wide. Just make sure there’s a safety release in case of fire.
* Talk to your children about the dangers of opening or playing near windows, particularly on upper floors of the home or in a high-rise dwelling.
What to do if your child falls from a high elevation
If your child has fallen more than 1.5 metres (or five feet) from a window or balcony and has lost consciousness or is vomiting, this could be the result of a head injury.
“Our trauma team members train and simulate over and over again to best care for these kids in their ‘golden hour’ of trauma where every minute counts,” says Dodds.
Get them assessed by a health-care provider urgently or call 911. Most head injuries require immediate medical attention and your closest emergency department is a good first step to seek treatment.