If high chair safety is not high on your list of concerns, it's about to be.
For the first time in 10 years, researchers have looked into trends in injuries related to high chair use, and it does not look good. According to a new study published this week in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, the number of children who went to emergency rooms because of injuries related to high chairs increased 22% from 2003 to 2010.
Nearly all of those injuries, 93%, were the result of children falling out of high chairs, the authors found. And because high chairs are usually in kitchens or dining rooms, the children often fall onto hard tile or wood floors.
Indeed, 37% of the injuries were "closed head injuries" like concussions and internal head trauma. Thirty-three percent who fell had bumps and bruises, and 19% had cuts.
But don't panic. Instead, take action.
"I tell parents that the top three things you can do to prevent high chair injuries is use the restraint system in the chair, use the restraint system and use the restraint system," said Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital He was the lead author of the study.
Smith noted that two-thirds of the reported high chair injuries occurred when children were standing in high chairs or climbing out of them.
"That leads us to conclude that many of those kids were not adequately restrained in the chair or not restrained at all," he said. "We don't want to be alarmist. We just want to let parents know that here is an injury that is on the rise, and there is a way to prevent it."
The data in the study were collected by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which gathers information from about 100 hospitals in the United States. Therefore, it measured just the number of children who went to emergency rooms because of high chair injuries. It did not include children who had fallen from chairs and either did not see doctors or were taken directly to their pediatricians.
Smith said he didn't know why high chair injuries were increasing. He said it is possible that parents are more aware of the danger of head injuries and therefore are more likely to bring their children to emergency rooms after falls. Another possibility is that more high chairs were in use in 2010 than in 2003, or that parents have kept high chairs that have been recalled.
"I think the most likely answer is that there are many factors involved," he said.
Aside from telling parents to get into the habit of buckling their children into high chairs -- and not thinking of the tray table as a restraint system, which it is not -- Smith suggests that parents stay with their children during meal time and check www.recalls.gov to make sure their high chairs have not been recalled.
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