Obese Kids Too Big for Normal Car Seat

Study: Affordable, Approved Car Seats Needed for Heavy Children

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on April 03, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

April 3, 2006 -- Obesity may make it tough to find car seats approved for children, experts report.

Car seats can save kids' lives. They're also required by law for babies and young children in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., note Lara Trifiletti, PhD, and colleagues.

"A total of 283,305 children 1-6 years of age would have a difficult (if not impossible) time finding a safe child-safety seat because of their age and weight," Trifiletti's team writes in Pediatrics.

"The vast majority of these children are 3 years of age and weigh more than 40 pounds (182,661 children)," the researchers continue. "For these children, there are currently only four child safety seat types available, each of which costs between $240 and $270."

Trifiletti works at the Columbus Children's Research Institute at Ohio State University.

Too Heavy for Car Seat?

Trifiletti and colleagues checked the weight limits for 92 car seats noted in the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's 2005 Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Ratings.

Kids were considered to have limited child safety seat options if they were less than 1 year old and weighed more than 35 pounds, 1-3 years old and weighed more than 41 pounds, or were 4-6 years old and weighed more than 81 pounds. Kids were considered ineligible for a seat if they weighed more than the maximum weight specified by the seat's maker.

The researchers also calculated height and age for U.S. kids, using data from a 1999-2000 government health survey and the 20000 U.S. Census.

Trifiletti's team estimates that approved car seats would be tough or impossible to find for 8,683 2-year-olds, 182,661 3-year-olds, and 91,927 children aged 4-6 years, based on kids' weight and age.

The affected 3-year-olds account for a little less than 5% of all U.S. 3-year-olds, the researchers note.

Immediate Need

Trifiletti's study focuses on three "A's" of kids' car seats: Approved use for heavy kids, availability, and affordability.

Finding a seat that covers those bases may be tough for many families, and with childhood obesity increasing, "we can expect even more children to face the prospect of limited or no child safety seats available to protect them," write Trifiletti and colleagues.

"We cannot wait for the prevention or reduction of childhood obesity to eliminate this problem," they write, calling for car seats that meet all of those requirements.

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SOURCES: Trifiletti, L. Pediatrics, April 2006; vol 117: pp 1197-1202. News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.
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