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Rise in U.S. High Chair Injuries Stuns Experts

Either safety straps aren't working or adults don't use them properly, researchers say

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"In recent years, there have been millions of high chairs recalled because they do not meet current safety standards. Most of these chairs are reasonably safe when restraint instructions are followed, but even so, there were 3.5 million high chairs recalled during our study period alone," said Smith. However, even highly educated and informed parents aren't always fully aware of a recall when it happens, he noted.

Still, Smith believes that a 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act will lead to a notable drop in recalls in coming years because it calls for independent third-party testing of children's products before they're put on the market.

This could eliminate many serious head injuries, he believes. According to the study, the most frequent ER diagnosis after a high chair fall is a concussion or internal head injury, otherwise known as a "closed head injury." This type of head trauma accounted for 37 percent of high chair injuries, and its frequency climbed by nearly 90 percent during the eight years studied.

Nearly six in 10 children experienced an injury to their head or neck after a high chair fall, while almost three in 10 experienced a facial injury, the study found.

Injuries related to falls from traditional chairs were more likely to be broken bones, cuts and bruises.

For now, Smith said, the top three things parents can do to ensure their child's safety: "Use the restraint, use the restraint, use the restraint!"

The tray is not meant to be a restraint. Children need to be buckled in, he added.

Also, supervision is a must. Stay with your child during meal time and make sure he or she doesn't defeat the restraint, he said. "Even if a chair does meet current safety standards and the restraint is used properly, there's never 100 percent on this . . . Parents will always need to be vigilant."

Also, if the high chair has wheels, lock them in place. Make sure the high chair is stable, and position it away from walls or counters that the child can push against.

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