COMMENTARY | I've always been nervous about letting my daughter near stairs. When she was a baby, I would hold her tightly in my arms and take each step carefully as I descended a staircase. As a toddler, she was required to hold my finger in one hand and the handrail in the other. Even now, at four years old, she knows to be very careful on stairs and to always use a handrail. I don't regret my caution. As a recent study in Pediatrics found, stair-related accidents are an extremely common cause of injury among young children.
The numbers of stair-related injuries among children have declined 11.6 percent in recent years, but they continue to be a problem. According to the latest statistics, 42.4 kids out of 10,000 will fall down stairs and be rushed to the hospital before age five. Among these children, about 3 percent will have injuries severe enough to warrant overnight hospitalization and ongoing treatment. Although these numbers may seem insignificant, it's clear that stairs are a very real and serious danger to young children.
Most stair-related injuries are relatively minor, but still intensely painful and temporarily disabling. Out of every three kids who fall down stairs, one will experience significant bumps and bruises. Many others will have sprains, strains and limb fractures. Head, neck and spinal injuries caused by stair-related falls are also common -- and a serious cause for concern, since these types of injuries are the most likely to be fatal or to cause long-term problems lasting months or years beyond the point or injury.
The study also yielded another surprising, if worrisome, finding. As many as one-quarter of babies injured from stair falls were being carried by an adult at the time of the accident. These reports are most alarming to me as a mom because they seem so unpreventable. While baby gates and better supervision can prevent three-quarters of falls, the accidents can occur even when parents are directly holding the children.
Accidents will happen no matter how much I guard my daughter -- and I know that the answer to child safety isn't to wrap our children in bubbles or lock them in padded rooms. However, these statistics have helped to reaffirm my concerns about stair safety in general. I will continue to hold my child's hand on the stairs until I can know with confidence that she can manage them safely and effectively.
Juniper Russo is a freelance writer, health advocate and dedicated mom living in Chattanooga, Tenn.