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Even Windows On First Floor Pose Risk Of Falls For Youngsters

Toddler holds up window blinds and looks out the window.

More than 5,000 kids who fall from windows in the U.S. each year are hurt badly enough to require a trip to the emergency room.

Perhaps it comes as no big surprise that preschoolers are the most likely to sustain injuries that involve a hospital visit. Researchers from Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, found 2-year-olds accounted for the largest number of serious falls. Overall, the youngest kids — newborns to 4-year-olds — sustained 65 percent of the window-fall injuries that led children to an ER visit, according to data collected between 1990 and 2008.

The researchers, whose study appears in the latest issue of Pediatrics, also categorized the falls by distance and the surfaces where the children landed, whenever that information was available. Falls from the second story (12.1 to 24 feet) accounted for 63 percent of the injuries and those from the first floor (less than 12 feet) represented 31 percent. The rest, about 6 percent, were from the third floor or higher.

About 40 percent of kids were injured after landing on asphalt or another hard surface. Grass, dirt, and other firm surfaces were involved in 42 percent of injuries. The rest — about 16 percent — landed on something relatively soft, such as bushes or mulch.

Overall, the researchers, who looked at data gathered from about 100 hospitals, figure there were more than 98,000 injuries related to window falls across the country during the 19 years ending in 2008.

The rates of injuries dropped for the youngest kids (newborns to 4-year-olds), but didn't change much for those from 5 to 17 years of age. Most of the improvement for the smallest children came during the 1990s.

Window guards, improvements in construction, and greater awareness of the risks are all possible explanations for the decline in injury rates, according to the authors.

Still, the researchers point out that the nationwide decline in the rate of fall injuries for young kids wasn't nearly as steep as was seen in some places, such as New York City and Boston, which pushed window guards hard.

The rest of the nation could learn something from them, the researchers say. "The slower decrease followed by a plateau in injury rates found in this study underscores the fact that prevention effortsof the magnitude undertaken inNew York and Boston have not occurred nationwide," the researchers wrote.

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