Baby Safety Gates: How to Prevent Injuries
On Monday, the official journal of the Academic Pediatric Association published a study about the rise of injuries related to baby gates in the United States. The results were disconcerting.
The number of children injured on baby gates rose drastically from 1990 to 2010 with a total of 37,673 children younger than seven years of age being treated for baby gate-related injuries. This is an average of about five children per day, or 1,794 per year.
Over 60 percent of children taken in for injuries were boys. More serious injuries, such as falls down stairs which often lead to soft tissue injuries or traumatic brain injury, happened mostly to children under two years of age. Children older than two years old were found to become injured simply by contact with the gate, with over 55 percent being treated for open wounds.
Facts and numbers like these can be frightening, especially to new parents. However, there are clear precautions that can be taken to reverse the number of injuries while still continuing to use baby safety gates.
Lara McKenzie, PhD, a co-author of the study, said, “Baby gates are essential safety devices for parents and caregivers, and they should continue to be used. It is important, however, to make sure you are using a gate that meets the voluntary safety standards and is right type of gate for where you are planning to use it.”
Here are a few tips for parents (grandparents, babysitters, etc.) to keep in mind when purchasing and installing a baby safety gate at home:
~ Use bolted or hardware-mounted gates instead of pressure-mounted gates, especially at the top of stairways.
~ Once the child reaches two years old, or has the ability to open or climb the gate, remove it. If it cannot be removed due to younger children in the home, choose a gate without gaps or horizontal slats that can make it easier for the older child to climb. Gates with mesh panels are a good example.
~ Avoid accordion-style gates without a top filler bar.
~ Use safety gates that are no less than 22 inches tall and have no more than 3 inches between the floor and the bottom of the gate.
~ Choose a gate certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. A JPMA sticker can be found on the packaging or frame of the product.
“Current standards are voluntary and concentrate on things like the size of the openings, height, vertical strength, bottom spacing, configuration of the uppermost edge and label warnings,” said Dr. McKenzie. “While these are important, making them mandatory and adding standards to address designs that limit children’s ability to climb gates, prevent gates from collapsing, and provide better cushion to children if they fall on the gate would prevent many of the injuries we saw in our study.”
Last, but not least, always remember to never leave a baby or toddler unattended, no matter how safe a product claims to be. Adult supervision is the best injury prevention.
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