Common Nursery Products Send Thousands of Children to Hospitals

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Baby carriers, cribs, strollers, high chairs, changing tables, bath seats — these ordinary nursery products result in an average of 66,000 injuries a year requiring trips to the emergency room for young children.

Using data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, researchers estimate that from 1991 to 2011, there were 1,391,844 injuries among children under 3 that were serious enough to be treated in a hospital.

The rate of injuries decreased from 1991 to 2003, mainly because there were fewer baby walker- or jumper-related mishaps. But in 2003, the rate began to rise, and by 2011 the number of injuries had increased by 23.5 percent. Three-fifths of the injuries were caused by falls.

Baby carriers were the problem in 19.5 percent of all injuries, and in more than half of those to infants under 6 months of age.

Cribs and mattresses were a factor in 18.6 percent of injuries, strollers or carriages in 16.5 percent, and high chairs in 12.6 percent.

Mobile baby walkers accounted for 16.2 percent of emergency room visits. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended a ban on the products.

Ingestion of substances accounted for only 1.1 percent of hospital visits, and product failure for 0.09 percent.

Almost 25 percent of the increase in emergency room visits resulted from concussions and closed-head injuries, about which there has been rising publicity.

“There may have been a true increase in the number of these injuries, as well as a change in emergency care-seeking behavior by parents and child caregivers,” said the senior author of the study, Dr. Gary A. Smith, director of the Center for Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Dr. Smith offered some tips for safely using the three nursery products most commonly associated with injuries:

■ Use the harness properly in baby carriers.

■ Keep the handles of strollers clear, and don’t let other children hang on while a baby is inside.

■ Eliminate blankets, pillows, bumper pads and stuffed animals in cribs. And use a crib manufactured after 2011, when the safety standards were changed.

“It is not helpful to blame parents when injuries occur,” he said. “We can successfully reduce injuries by using the public health approach” to make products safer.