Elevator Injuries: Kids at Risk

More Than 1,900 Elevator Injuries in U.S. Kids and Teens Per Year

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on June 19, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

June 19, 2007 -- U.S. children and teens had more than 29,000 elevator injuries serious enough to require hospital visits from 1990 to 2004.

That translates to 1,940 elevator injuries in an average year, a new study shows.

Indiana University pediatrician Joseph O'Neil, MD, MPH, and colleagues reviewed elevator injury data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The data came from 98 hospital emergency rooms nationwide.

Using that data, O'Neil's team estimated how many babies, kids, and teens were injured in U.S. elevators between 1990 and 2004.

Elevator Injury Statistics

During the study period, 2.5 per 100,000 kids and teens were injured on elevators, usually when elevator doors closed on them.

Most injuries involved bruises, scrapes, sprains, and strains on the upper extremities -- the arms, hands, elbows, wrists, and fingers.

After the upper extremities, the head was the most commonly injured body part for kids aged 4 or younger.

Nearly all patients were treated and released from the hospitals' emergency departments. But 2% were hospitalized, mainly for head injuries or injury to a hand or finger.

Young Kids' Risk

About 26% of elevator injuries happened in 1- and 2-year-olds, more than any other age group.

Kids that age typically start walking and becoming more independent, but they may not yet know how to stay safe on elevators.

"Young children, especially younger than 5 years of age, often lack the strength, coordination, balance, and protective reflexes needed to avoid an elevator-related injury," O'Neil's team writes.

If kids see grown-ups blocking elevator doors, they may imitate them, which may lead to injury, note the researchers. Of course, blocking elevator doors isn't a proper use of elevators at any age.

Elevator Safety Tips

O'Neil and colleagues offer four tips on elevator safety:

  • Young children should be closely supervised in or near elevators.
  • Passengers of any age should use caution when entering or exiting an elevator.
  • Parents and caregivers should be encouraged to set an example by not trying to prevent an elevator door from closing.
  • Elevator doors should be adjusted to sense light pressure from a child and open in response.

Their findings appear in the "online first" edition of the journal Clinical Pediatrics.

  • Keeping your toddler safe is a challenge. Talk with other moms and dads on WebMD's Parenting: 2-Year-Olds message board.

Show Sources

SOURCES: O'Neil, J. Clinical Pediatrics, online first edition, May 23, 2007. News release, Indiana University.

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