When placing a child in high chairs or booster seats, expectations are that the child is secure and safe from falls and injuries. But new research suggests that in the US, a child is taken to the hospital as a result of high chair- or booster seat-related injuries every hour. This is according to a study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics.
Researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy, of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio, say that many parents assume that high chairs and booster seats are safe for their infants. But they point out that in recent years, millions of them have been recalled due to safety concerns.
With this in mind, the research team analyzed data of children aged 3 years and younger who were treated for booster seat- or high chair-related injuries at US emergency departments between 2003 and 2010.
Chair restraints 'either not used or ineffective'
They found that an average of 9,400 children in the US were treated every year as a result of injury from these products. This is equal to one child being treated for a booster seat or high chair injury every hour.
In detail, the study found that 93% of all injuries involved a fall. Further analysis revealed that two-thirds of the children were climbing or standing in the chairs before injury.
The researchers say this suggests that either the chair's safety restraint systems were not being used or they were ineffective.
The most common injury linked to high chair use was closed head injuries (CHI), with 37% of children experiencing internal head injuries or other head injuries, such as concussion.
Over the study period, the number of closed head injuries rose by almost 90%, from 2,558 in 2003 to 4,789 in 2010.
Around 33% of the injured children suffered bumps and/or bruises, while 19% had cuts, and 59% of injuries occurred on the head and/or neck, while 28% were on the face.
Commenting on the study findings, Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center of Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital, says:
"Families may not think about the dangers associated with the use of high chairs. High chairs are typically used in kitchens and dining areas, so when a child falls from the elevated height of the high chair, he is often falling head first onto a hard surface such as tile or wood flooring with considerable force. This can lead to serious injuries."
Dr. Smith says that many parents make assumptions that the tray of a high chair will prevent a child from falling or jumping out, but this is not the case. He emphasizes that the use of the safety straps on the chair is essential.
"The number one thing parents can do to prevent injuries related to high chairs is to use the safety restraint system in the chair. The vast majority of injuries from these products are from falls. Buckling your child in every time you use the high chair can help keep them safe."
Recommended safety tips for high chairs
Nationwide Children's Hospital have compiled a number of recommendations to help guide parents and carers on how to keep children safe in high chairs:
- Always use the provided safety straps, and ensure the straps are working efficiently and are firmly attached to the chair.
- Ensure the chair is stable. If it has wheels, make sure these are locked during use.
- Children should not be allowed to play, climb or stand in the chair, as this can cause the chair to tip over.
- Children should be supervised in the chair during mealtimes.
- The area surrounding the high chair should be kept clear of objects a child can grab or knock over, such as tablecloths, placemats, sharp silverware, plates, and hot food and liquids.
- Check for high chair recalls regularly. This can be done through www.recalls.gov.
Written by Honor Whiteman