Step up to Prevent Child Stairs Injuries

Injuries from stairs decrease but continue to cause serious issues among young children

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Children aren't tumbling down the stairs at the same rate they used to, but a young child is still on the way to the ER once every six minutes for stairs-related injuries.

According to a new study, over 93,000 children under age 5 ended up in emergency room departments across the U.S. between 1999 and 2008 for injuries sustained from an accident on the stairs.

"Use child safety gates and avoid carrying children on the stairs."

Researchers including Dr. Gary Smith, M.D., director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital and a professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, analyzed data from a nationally representative sample obtained from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS).

The most common stairs-related injuries, which occurred in about a third of all cases, were soft tissue injuries. About a quarter of the injuries were cuts or punctures, and three-quarters of all injuries involved the child's head or neck. Another 11 percent of the injuries involve the upper parts of the child's body.

The data showed that most children fell down the stairs on their own, but children younger than a year were more likely to get hurt while being carried down the stairs or while in a stroller or baby walker.

These carrying injuries, which comprised about a quarter of all the stair-related injuries to babies under 1, were also three times as likely to lead to hospitalization compared to children injured by other objects.

The researchers therefore advised that people try not to carry a child while climbing or descending stairs whenever possible. If you must carry a child on the stairs, do not carry other items at the same time and use the handrails for balance or in case you trip.

Further, never use a stroller, carriage or pram on the stairs, and use only stationary play centers for kids instead of mobile baby walkers, which can lead to a variety of injuries on steps and elsewhere.

The authors also offered some general tips for keeping staircases safe, such as installing handrails if they don't already exist, keeping stairs in good condition and free of clutter, and using stair gates at the top and bottom.

The most important tip is that any child around a staircase or stairwell is always well-supervised. Once he or she begins learning to use stairs, teaching him good safety practices on stairs:
• Hold on to the handrail
• Ask for help if they want to bring something up or down the steps
• Keep the stairs clear of toys and other clutter
• Use stairs only to get up or down, not to play on

The study was released online March 12 ahead of print in the journal Pediatrics. The study was funded by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The authors indicated no conflicts of interest.

The NEISS is operated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and provides data on injuries treated in ER departments throughout the U.S. that were related to sports, recreation or consumer products.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 14, 2012
Last Updated:
March 15, 2012