Study describes national trends of high chair-related injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments

Published on December 9, 2013 at 6:26 AM · No Comments

High chairs and booster seats are commonly used to help make feeding young children easier. Although most parents assume these products are safe, millions have been recalled in recent years, and injuries associated with their use continue to occur.

A new study by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital examined data relating to children age 3 years and younger who were treated in U.S. emergency departments from 2003 through 2010 for high chair-related injuries. On average, more than 9,400 children were treated each year for an injury associated with a high chair or booster seat, equaling one child every hour nationally. In addition, the annual number of injured children increased during the study period.

The study, available online on December 9, 2013 and in an upcoming print issue of Clinical Pediatrics, found that nearly all injuries associated with a high chair or booster seat involved a fall (93 percent). In the cases that reported what the child was doing just before the fall, two-thirds of the children injured were climbing or standing in the chair, suggesting that the chair's safety restraint system either was not being used or was ineffective in these cases.

"Families may not think about the dangers associated with the use of high chairs," said Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "High chairs are typically used in kitchens and dining areas, so when a child falls from the elevated height of the high chair, he is often falling head first onto a hard surface such as tile or wood flooring with considerable force. This can lead to serious injuries."

Closed head injuries (CHI) - which include concussions and internal head injuries - were the most common diagnosis associated with high chairs (37 percent) followed by bumps/bruises (33 percent) and cuts (19 percent). The number of CHIs increased by almost 90 percent during the study period, going from 2,558 in 2003 to 4,789 in 2010. The body regions most commonly injured were the head/neck (59 percent) and the face (28 percent).

"The number one thing parents can do to prevent injuries related to high chairs is to use the safety restraint system in the chair," said Dr. Smith, also a professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. "The vast majority of injuries from these products are from falls. Buckling your child in every time you use the high chair can help keep them safe."

Dr. Smith also noted that many parents assume the tray will keep a child from jumping or falling out but stressed that the tray was not designed as a restraint, so use of the safety straps is essential.

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