On Your Side: Avoiding falls: A look at making windows safe for toddlers
Published Tuesday, June 19, 2012 8:34AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 19, 2012 9:22AM EDT
Two-year old Lali is discovering the world outside her house, a world several meters below the safety of her window.
"She likes climbing on things and she can really get up," said Lisa Chandler, Lali's mother.
With new milestones come new concerns. Balconies and windows are especially dangerous to children during summer months because they invite exploration. Every year that exploration leads to a number of serious falls.
"Over the past 10 years, we've had at least 50 children between the ages of 18 months and four years of age who've sustained injuries from falls from windows or balconies," said Debbie Friedman.
The head of the injury prevention unit at the Montreal Children's Hospital said that falls from as little as five feet can result in everything from simple abrasions to brain and abdominal injuries and paralysis.
"We had one child that sustained a spinal chord injury from a fall of about 40 feet," said Friedman.
Already this year, the trauma unit at the Children's has seen five injuries caused by falls from windows and balconies. Screens are no protection because they can give way with the weight of a child.
"Next thing you know they push on the screen and they fall out," said Friedman. "The screen is maybe great to keep the bugs out but it doesn't keep the kids in."
According to Nancy Reynolds, a certified child-proofer, people don't understand that the screens won't work. There are special window guards that keep children in, but will unlock if there's a fire.
"We also use regular safety gates that again would be taller and would allow you to get in and out quickly," said Reynolds.
You can also buy window guards at any hardware store that only allow the window to only open a bit.
"Then a child can't continue to open it," said Reynolds
As well Friedman, reminds us that furniture and changing tables should never be placed under a window. The same thing applies to balconies. While straight balcony railings are safer and harder to climb, those with designs or have a cross bar are much more risky for kids.
"They make it easy for a little person to get their toe on and hoist themselves up," said Reynolds.
The biggest mistake many parents make is underestimating the capabilities and development of their own children.
"They don't anticipate they're changing and each day they have new abilities," said Chandler, watching Lali. "Sometimes what she can do even within the same day changes a lot and so I think it's really important not to make any assumptions about her level of development and just be always vigilant."
Lisa Chandler and her 15-month-old daughter Lali, testing the dangers of balconies.