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Shopping Dangers Lurk for Kids

Shopping Carts and Escalators Pose Hazards for Children
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 7, 2006 -- Shopping carts and escalators are significant hazards for children, two new studies show.

Shopping carts aren't exactly designed for child safety. Last year, shopping-cart-related injuries sent 20,000 U.S. kids to emergency rooms. But the correct use of belts or harnesses can reduce the risk of injury to a young child.

Not many parents actually use these shopping cart seat belts, finds Ohio State University researcher Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH. But a simple intervention -- a greeter who offers parents safety advice along with a $2 coupon -- gets about half of parents to use them correctly.

"The good news is that we were able to significantly increase restraint use by young children in shopping carts with a modest in-store intervention," Smith says, in a news release. "However, one-half of the children still remained unrestrained or incorrectly restrained despite our efforts."

Smith's report appears in the August issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP is now calling for a redesign of shopping carts to make them less likely to tip over. Until that happens, the AAP says, parents should avoid putting children in shopping carts.

For parents who still choose to put kids in shopping carts, the AAP recommends the use of an age- and size-appropriate seat belt or harness. And the AAP issues several stern warnings:

  • Never leave a child alone in a shopping cart.
  • Never let a child stand up in a shopping cart.
  • Never put an infant carrier on top of a shopping cart.
  • Never let a child ride in the basket.
  • Never let a child ride on the outside of a shopping cart.
  • Never let an older child climb on a cart -- or even push a cart -- with another child inside.

Escalator Injuries

Carts aren't the only shopping hazard. Escalators, too, are a hazard -- especially for kids under the age of 5 years. About 2,000 children a year are injured on escalators, report Ohio State University researcher Jennifer McGeehan, MPH, Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH, and colleagues in the August issue of Pediatrics.

The most common escalator injury: falling down and getting a deep cut. But about 30% of escalator injuries happen when kids are caught in the escalator. This can happen when a shoelace or drawstring gets caught in the machinery, resulting in a leg injury. In under-5 children, it tends to be fingers that get caught -- sometimes resulting in amputation.

Another significant source of escalator injury: falls from strollers.

"Holding a young child's hand or carrying the child while on an escalator will help to prevent him or her from putting hands or fingers between the escalator step and the sidewall or getting close enough to the sides to allow entrapment of loose clothing, shoelaces, or drawstrings," McGeehan and colleagues suggest.

The researchers also advise parents to use elevators instead of escalators if they choose to keep their children in strollers.

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