Six falls in six days: Paramedics and medical experts on window and balcony safety to protect young children

SINCE Thursday of last week, paramedics have transported six injured children who have fallen from windows or balconies to BC Children’s Hospital emergency department.

And with more hot and dry weather in the forecast for much of the province, BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) and BC Children’s Hospital are again reminding parents and caregivers of young children to make sure their window and balcony safety locks are in place.

“It’s not even summer yet and we’re already seeing a spike in pediatric emergency department visits due to window and balcony falls,” said Lisa Widas, Trauma Program Manager at BC Children’s Hospital.

Paramedics see the critical injuries that result from falls from windows and balconies, most often including broken bones and facial and head trauma.

“If you look after young children or have kids visiting your home, window and door safety locks are your best friend,” said BCEHS Unit Chief Marilyn Oberg.  “Little children move quickly and sometimes without reason or warning, so ensuring security locks are in place is a simple and effective safety measure for the warmer months.”

“With temperatures rising, we often see an increase in falls from windows, and young children are particularly vulnerable to these falls,” said Dr. Ash Singhal, pediatric neurosurgeon and Medical Director, BC Children’s Hospital Trauma Program. “Many of the injuries can be quite severe, including skull fractures and brain injuries and potentially cause long term effects for the child.”

While it might be tempting to leave a window open a crack to let in some fresh air during the warmer months, remember that young children are innately curious and natural climbers, and do not understand the risk of their actions. They can be strong enough to widen an unlocked window. Toddlers have a high centre of gravity, so even leaning on a screen can cause a fall, likely headfirst, which can lead to serious injuries.


Safety tips to prevent falls from windows:

* Don’t underestimate a child’s mobility; children begin climbing before they can walk.

* Move household items away from windows to discourage children from climbing to peer out. Toddlers may use anything as a step stool to get higher.

* Be aware that window screens will not prevent children from falling through – they keep bugs out, not children in.

* Install window guards on windows above the ground level. These act as a gate in front of the window.

* Or, fasten the windows, so that they cannot open more than 10 centimetres (four inches). Children can fit through spaces as small as 12 centimetres (five inches) wide. In either case, ensure there is a safe release option in case of a house fire.

* Don’t leave children unattended on balconies or decks. Move furniture or planters away from the edges as kids can climb up and over.

* Talk to your children about the dangers of opening and playing near windows, particularly on upper floors of the home.