Rise in U.S. High Chair Injuries Stuns Experts
Either safety straps aren't working or adults don't use them properly, researchers say
By Alan Mozes
MONDAY, Dec. 9, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Young children are falling out of high chairs at alarming rates, according to a new safety study that found high chair accidents increased 22 percent between 2003 and 2010.
U.S. emergency rooms now attend to an average of almost 9,500 high chair-related injuries every year, a figure that equates to one injured infant per hour. The vast majority of incidents involve children under the age of 1 year.
"We know that these injuries can and do happen, but we did not expect to see the kind of increase that we saw," said study co-author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
"Most of the injuries we're talking about, over 90 percent, involve falls with young toddlers whose center of gravity is high, near their chest, rather than near the waist as it is with adults," Smith said. "So when they fall they topple, which means that 85 percent of the injuries we see are to the head and face."
Because the fall is from a seat that's higher than the traditional chair and typically onto a hard kitchen floor, "the potential for a serious injury is real," he added. "This is something we really need to look at more, so we can better understand why this seems to be happening more frequently."
For the study, published online Dec. 9 in Clinical Pediatrics, the authors analyzed information collected by the U.S. National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. The data concerned all high chair, booster seat, and normal chair-related injuries that occurred between 2003 and 2010 and involved children 3 years old and younger.
The researchers found that high chair/booster chair injuries rose from 8,926 in 2003 to 10,930 by 2010.
Roughly two-thirds of high chair accidents involved children who had been either standing or climbing in the chair just before their fall, the study authors noted.
The conclusion: Chair restraints either aren't working as they should or parents are not using them properly.
"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.