Bath time a risky business for young children

A new study has found children are far more at risk of injury in the bath or shower from slips, trips and falls, than from scalding or drowning and most injuries occur to children under age 4.

Experts say slips and falls are far more common and in most cases, parents are present when their child falls or slips - they say young children, are the ones most typically injured in bathtubs and showers as they tend to topple forward because they have a high centre of gravity, they then hit their head and their face, and end up with injures such as lacerations to the face and head.

According to the new study more than 43,000 children, 18 years and younger, are treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments every year for injuries occurring in a bathtub or shower.

The researchers say bathtubs and showers are frequently associated with injuries to children but despite interventions put in place to prevent injuries such as near drowning and hot water scalds, little attention has been paid to slips, trips and falls in the bath or shower, yet such incidents account for more than 80% of bathtub and shower-related injuries.

Research by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio, has revealed that the number of injuries remained consistently high over the 18-year study period from 1990-2007, suggesting that prevention efforts need to be increased.

The study shows that children younger than 5 years accounted for more than half of all injuries and the most common diagnosis was a laceration (60%), with the face being the most frequently injured body region (48%), followed by the head and neck (15%).

Even though experts globally recommend that young children be supervised at all times while in the bath and shower, supervision alone will not prevent all bath and shower-related injuries, especially slips and falls.

Dr. Gary Smith from Ohio State University College of Medicine says what is needed is environmental changes, such as making surfaces more slip-resistant, handholds to reduce slipping and falling, the elimination of sharp edges in the bathtub and shower, and shatterproof enclosures to prevent lacerations.

Dr. Smith says these are the best methods to prevent bathtub and shower-related injuries - the experts at Nationwide Children's Hospital are also calling on manufacturers to use more slip-resistant materials when making bathtubs and showers which could significantly reduce the number of injuries.

The Center for Injury Research and Policy is a CDC-funded Injury Control Research Center (ICRC), which focuses on the investigation and prevention of injuries to children and adolescents - Dr. Ileana Arias, director of the Center says installing grab bars, using non-slip mats and always supervising young children are some ways parents can make their bathtubs and showers safer places and protect their children.

The Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital works globally to reduce injury-related pediatric death and disabilities.

CDC's Injury Control Research Centers are located at universities and medical institutions throughout the United States and these research centers bring together scientists with different areas of expertise in an effort to find new and more effective ways to prevent, reduce and respond to injuries.

The study 'Source: Injuries Associated with Bathtubs and Showers Among Children in the United States, is published in Pediatrics, Volume 124, Number 2, August 2009 and online.

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