Children are curious, and often do not recognize when they are putting themselves at risk; a combination that can cause serious injury during the summer, with open windows and doors beckoning, and fans and air conditioning units brought into use.
“The injuries associated with window falls can be devastating,” says Dr. Ash Singhal, paediatric neurosurgeon and medical director of the B.C. Children’s Hospital trauma program. “We see broken limbs, skull fractures, and brain injuries that can cause life-long problems for children.”
Window and door screens that are meant to keep bugs out are not designed to keep children in, and will not protect a child who climbs up to a window ledge, or gains access to a balcony. Parents, grandparents, and caregivers may think that a child cannot reach a window, but they have remarkable mobility, and can climb before they can walk.
“They will use furniture or even potted plants to climb on,” says RN Lisa Romein, manager of the trauma program at B.C. Children’s Hospital. “Falls peak in the summer with doors and windows open.”
For that reason, it is recommended that household items be moved away from windows to discourage children from climbing up to peer outside.
Doors and windows should also be fastened so that they cannot open more than four inches, since young children can fit through spaces as narrow as five inches. Romein notes, however, that the fasteners should be easily and quickly removable by an adult in case of emergency.
Air conditioning units that fit into a window should be firmly installed so they cannot fall out if a child tries to climb up onto them. Those that sit on the floor with a hose going out through the window are, along with fans, a tip-over hazard that a child can pull over onto herself. “As with any new piece of furniture you bring into the home, make sure it’s secure.”
The same advice goes for television sets. The new thin screen models are very easy to pull over; if they are on a stand or table, they should be securely fastened with the hardware sold with the set.
Romein points out that fans present other hazards. “If you have one with an opening large enough for a child to put their finger in, then they will try it.” She adds that there is a potential of a fire hazard with older fans, and that people should be careful if they are tempted to pick one up secondhand. “Under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, people are not allowed to sell items that have been deemed as being particularly hazardous.” Items which do not meet current safety standards are included in this category.
“Kids are very curious, and not aware of risks,” says Romein. “If there’s any kind of hazard, stay with them; or take them out of the room if you can’t.”