Bathtub Falls a Serious Threat to Children

July 14, 2009 07:00 AM
by Shannon Firth
A recent study concluded that the biggest danger to children in bathtubs isn’t drowning, but falling. Many everyday situations can put children at risk for an injury or worse, however cautious parents can take steps to help prevent an accident.

Everyday Hidden Dangers

Recently, Nationwide Children’s Hospital reported that 43,000 children are injured in bathtub and shower falls each year.

The hospital's study, which is slated for publication in Pediatrics in August, reports that children under age 4 are most at risk for a spill.

Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the study’s coauthor, explained, “That is because young children … tend [to] topple forward, they have a high center of gravity, and they tend to strike their head and their face.”

Experts suggest parents use slip-resistant bath mats, install handholds, remove or cover sharp edges, and ensure that existing enclosures are shatterproof.

Other overlooked child hazards include riding escalators, using shopping carts, playing in bounce houses, and TV and furniture “tip-overs.”  According to Vincent Iannelli, MD, a writer for who cited a report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, “falls from shopping carts are among the leading causes of head injuries to young children.” Iannelli also noted that there were 101 deaths caused by furniture and TV “tip-overs” between 2000 and 2005.

He advises parents to use anchors or straps to keep furniture in place, and to keep TVs on strong secure stands. Ianelli also cautioned parents to closely supervise children during parades where floats are present, as these are responsible for a handful of deaths each year.

Related Topic: How to keep children safe this summer

One of the most dangerous times of year for children is the period from May to August. According to Reader’s Digest, a study by the National SAFE KIDS Campaign determined that approximately half of all injury-related childhood deaths occur in summer. Kids will also account for about 3 million trips to the emergency room.

In 2005, more than 3,000 people drowned unintentionally, reported findingDulcinea.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “More than one in four fatal drowning victims are children 14 and younger.”

Parents should also learn to recognize the less visible risks of being in the pool. In 2008, a child died in a “dry drowning” after leaving the water. Dry drowning can occur when a swimmer inhales a small amount of water into the lungs; if left untreated, the lungs are unable to fully absorb oxygen into the body.

In summertime, water poses the biggest risk to kids, Reader’s Digest explains, followed closely by bicycling accidents and trouble at the playground.

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