Hidden Hazards of Potty Training?

Toddler toilet seat injuries slowly increasing but usually are minor treatable injuries

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

(RxWiki News) All kinds of interesting mishaps can occur when toddlers are potty training. Some of those mishaps may be more painful than others for the little guys.

A recent study found that injuries caused by falling toilet seats have been increasing in recent years.

These injuries are still very rare, but they have increased by about 100 new injuries a year since 2002.

Most of the boys whose penises get injured from falling toilet seats are treated successfully in the emergency room and then discharged.

"Ask your pediatrician about potty training safety."

The study, led by Allison S. Glass, of the Department of Urology at the University of California San Francisco, looked at how common injuries from toilet seats were to people's genital areas.

The researchers gathered all the information on toilet seat-related injuries to the genital area for the years 2002 to 2010 that were reported to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

They used this data to estimate how common the injuries were and who was affected the most.

They identified 13,175 injuries related to toilets in which the injured person went to an emergency room between 2002 and 2010.

The most common way that injuries occurred was for the toilet seat to fall down while a person was using it. This occurred 68 percent of the time, in 9,011 of the cases.

Nearly all (98 percent) of the injuries involving a crushed genital were related to a crushed penis.

The vast majority of these (82 percent) happened to children aged 2 to 3 years old, almost always in their homes.

Between 2002 and 2010, the number of these injuries increased slowly and gradually, with about 100 additional injuries each year.

Most of the patients who had these injuries were treated in the emergency room and then discharged.

The researchers noted that, although this kind of injury is not very common, it appears to be slowly increasing.

They recommended better education about the risk of this injury and possibly the development of slow-close toilets to replace toilets with heavy seats.

However, parents should also realize that these injuries are not happening frequently.

"The article makes it seem as if this is a very common ER issue, but this type of injury is very rare and almost unheard of in private practice," said Tom Seman, MD, a pediatrician at North Shore Pediatrics in Danvers, Mass., and a dailyRx expert.

In fact, in more than 20 years of private practice with some time in the emergency room, Dr. Seman has never seen this type of injury.

"In the beginning, most male children are toilet trained by sitting on the toilet not standing," Dr. Seman said. "After the child becomes proficient, they are then shown how to urinate while standing."

When it does happen, then, "these injuries happen to well-intentioned kids trying to practice the habits their parents are teaching," said Chris Galloway, MD, a dailyRx expert specializing in emergency medicine.

"Unfortunately youngsters rush things and may not pay enough attention and then the 'lid' comes crashing down," he said. "Fortunately most injuries are benign, but they can be really scary for both the patient and the parent."

Both Dr. Seman and Dr. Galloway noted that soft close lids and safety locks can help prevent this type of injury.

This study was published June 14 in the journal BJU International.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 25, 2013
Last Updated:
July 31, 2013