Health Buzz: Window Falls Injure Thousands of Kids Annually

Preschoolers and spray cleaners don't mix; how to encourage helmet use in teens.

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Windows Are Big Source of Kids' Injuries

Window falls send more than 5,000 kids and teens to emergency rooms each year, and are serious enough to require a hospital stay a quarter of the time. Between 1990 and 2008, 98,415 children—mostly under age 5—were hurt in a window-falling incident, researchers reported today in Pediatrics. Falls from first- or second-floor windows accounted for 94 percent of the accidents. "This is actually a common injury," study author Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, told Time. "I just don't think it's on the radar screen of many parents. Not only are these injuries severe, but we know they are preventable." Parents can, for example, install window guards or remove furniture that could be climbed to access windows, the study authors say.

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  • Preschoolers and Spray Cleaners Don't Mix

    Parents may think they've childproofed the house, but household cleaners are still posing a risk to curious toddlers and preschoolers, despite years of effort to promote child-resistant packaging and safe storage of dangerous chemicals. The good news is that the number of children ages 5 and younger who landed in emergency rooms because of injuries caused by household cleaning products dropped by 46 percent from 1990 to 2006, according to a 2010 study in Pediatrics. But that still means that more than 10,000 children a year are being needlessly harmed by bleach, detergent, and other toxic yet common cleaners, U.S. News reported last year.

    Spray bottles are the biggest culprit. The percentage of injuries caused by products in spray bottles rose from 30.3 percent in 1990 to 40.8 percent in 2006. That may be because products are more commonly packaged in spray bottles these days; was anyone using laundry pre-treatment sprays in 1990? But the researchers, at Nationwide Children's Hospital and the Arizona Emergency Medicine Research Center in Tucson, speculated that it may be that the shut-off valves on spray products are no match for a curious 4-year-old. And in many cases, the child injured was not the one wielding the spray bottle. It's easy to imagine the appeal of a spray-bottle war for children too young to realize that the liquid inside isn't harmless water. [Read more: Preschoolers and Spray Cleaners Don't Mix.]

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    • Monkey See, Monkey Do: Teens Mimic Parents' Helmet-Wearing Habits

      Teenagers do pay attention to what adults do, at least when it comes to wearing motorcycle helmets. That's the news from a study in Pediatrics, which found that teenagers are more likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries in motorcycle crashes in states where helmets are required for motorcyclists under age 21, but not for adults, U.S. News reported in 2010.

      You might think this bit of data applies just to families with motorcyclists, but that's not so. Parents often think that teenagers ignore them, and teens don't hesitate to give that impression. The motorcycle-helmet study is just the latest in a pile of research showing that teenagers really do watch parents' actions closely, and emulate them. Teenagers whose parents don't exercise are more likely to be couch potatoes. Parents who watch a lot of TV tend to have children who log a lot of screen time. And parents who model other safe behavior, whether it's not texting while driving or never driving after drinking alcohol, are going to have an easier time getting kids to follow those rules, too.

      Bicycle helmets are also effective in reducing injuries among children and teens, even though there's far less velocity involved with these two-wheelers. Making bicycle helmets mandatory for youths reduced the injury rate by 24 percent the year after North Carolina passed a bike helmet law in 2001. But children and teens are all too willing to skip wearing helmets if they don't have to. Only about 25 percent of children always wear bike helmets, according to a 2004 study, even though most own them. Perhaps not surprisingly, most state and local bicycle helmet laws require them for children and teens, but not for adults. [Read more: Monkey See, Monkey Do: Teens Mimic Parents' Helmet-Wearing Habits.]