WITH the weather warming up, BC Children’s Hospital is encouraging parents and caregivers to keep children safe near windows and on balconies, especially with many families staying home more during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So far this year, BC Children’s Hospital has treated at least eight children who have fallen from windows or balconies, including, one child who passed away.
“A single instance of a child falling through a window can be a devastating event for a child and for that entire family,” says BC Children’s Pediatric Neurosurgeon Dr. Ash Singhal.
“In the days and weeks after we treat a child, we see the incredible personal and emotional impacts of the injury on the child and parents, grandparents and on all the care givers. We want to try to help prevent that from happening again.”
In 2019, 14 children aged 0 to 16 were treated at BC Children’s Emergency Department for falls from high elevations, such as windows and balconies.
Children aged 6 and under are vulnerable
The main types of injuries children sustain from falls from windows or balconies are head injuries and fractures to shoulders and upper arms.
Most falls from windows or balconies involve children aged 6 and under (91%). The vast majority occur at home and happen when the weather is warmer, between April and September (87%).
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.
“With warmer summer months, we’re reminding parents and caregivers that windows and balconies can be a serious safety hazard,” says Paramedic Specialist Ole Olsen.
“I think that’s one of the most tragic calls that a paramedic or a first-responder can attend to, especially knowing a few simple actions can make a home more secure for children and prevent devastating falls.”
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. 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.