Warmer weather has arrived and BC Children’s is encouraging parents and caregivers to keep children safe near windows and on balconies.
A total of 19 children were treated at the BC Children’s Emergency Department last year after falling from windows.
The main types of injuries children sustain are head injuries and fractures to shoulders and upper arms. These injuries are often severe and can be fatal.
Few understand this better than Dr. Faizal Haji, a BC Children's pediatric neurosurgeon who has seen the devastating effects of these falls firsthand.
“Parents always say the same thing: I wish I had known. I wish I could go back and prevent it,” he says.
“The average age of the children we see at BC Children’s who fall from windows is between three and six years old,” says Michelle Dodds, trauma manager at BC Children's. "At this age, their heads are proportionately larger than the rest of their bodies, so when they fall, their centre of gravity is towards the top and they hit their heads when they hit the ground. The result is often brain or spine injuries as well as many other serious injuries."
“Kids are naturally curious, and love to climb and explore. We encourage that, but we just want to make sure they can't fall out of windows as they explore.”
“If you look after young children or have kids visiting your home, adding window opening control devices to windows above the first floor should be part of child-safety-proofing your home,” says Dodds. “Windows should not open more than 10 centimetres, or four inches, wide. They also need a safety release in case of fire. These devices are easily installed and available at your local hardware store.”
Move furniture and planters – or anything that can be climbed on – away from windows.
Install window guards on windows above the ground floor. Fasten windows so that they cannot open more than 10 centimetres wide. Ensure 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 apartment.
Remember that screens keep bugs out, not children in! Screens are easily pushed out.
Don’t underestimate a child’s mobility. Children begin climbing before they can walk.