When you think of household hazards for children, what comes to mind?
You’re probably thinking chemical cleaning products, an unguarded swimming pool or a hot stovetop. And you’d be right … all of these items can pose a severe risk for small children. But a new study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics highlights another, surprisingly perilous threat: high chairs.
High chairs seem pretty basic. All you have to do is keep the kid sitting nicely with the chair flat on the floor and everything should be fine. The trouble is, a review of emergency room data from hospitals across the nation shows that in far too many cases, everything is not fine.
Visits to emergency departments for high-chair related injuries in babies and toddlers increased 22 percent from 2003 to 2010. The researchers also found that most of the injuries resulted from falls, with the most common form of harm being a type of traumatic brain injury called a closed-head injury. More than 9,400 kids were hurt in high-chair incidents every year.
That’s a lot of trouble with what appears to be a fairly simple apparatus. So what’s going on here? The researchers couldn’t say conclusively why high-chair injuries are rising so much, but they did offer a hint. Some of their data suggested that safety restraints were not being used properly. They also cited a previous study that found lack of restraint use was to blame.
If you’ve never seen a child topple from a high chair, you may not see a need for straps. But babies and toddlers are wiggly, and they’re always gaining strength and dexterity. One day they may sit contentedly at mealtime, and the next they’ll surprise you with a death-defying hurtle or shimmy for freedom.
Pull out those high-chair instruction manuals, parents, and give them a read. Strap your kids in accordingly, and keep meals fun and free from trauma.