Summer has arrived and BC Children’s Hospital is encouraging parents and caregivers to keep children safe near windows and on balconies.
So far this year, three children have been treated at BC Children’s after falling from a window.
In 2021, approximately 16 children aged 0 to 15 were treated at the BC Children’s Emergency Department were treated for falling from high elevations, such as windows, and two of those children died.
Every year, for the last 10 years, BC Children's has cared for an average of 13 children who fall through windows. The main types of injuries children sustain are head injuries and fractures to shoulders and upper arms. These injuries are often severe, and sometimes, fatal.
Few understand this better than Dr. Ash Singhal, a BC Children's pediatric neurosurgeon, who has seen first hand the devastating effects of these falls, from kids all over B.C.
“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 from window falls at BC Children’s is between three and six years old,” says Michelle Dodds, trauma manager, 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 potential injuries.
“Kids are naturally curious, and love to climb and explore, and we encourage that, we just don’t want them to be able to fall out of windows when they do so”.
“If you look after young children or have kids visiting your home, think about getting window and safety locks,” says Dodds. “Fasten windows so that they can’t open more than 10 centimetres, or four inches wide. Ensure there's a safety release in case of fire, but if not, there are many devices, easily installed, 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 dwelling.
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.