1.3 Million Infants Injured Each Year

Falls Are Most Common Cause of Infant Injury

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on May 06, 2008
From the WebMD Archives

May 6, 2008 -- Every 90 seconds, an injured infant enters a U.S. emergency room, the CDC calculates.

Each year an estimated 1.3 million babies sustain nonfatal, accidental injuries serious enough to send them to emergency departments, according to data collected from 2001 through 2004 through a national surveillance system supported by the CDC and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

What's the most common cause of infant injury? Falls, which account for more than half of all seriously injured children. What's most likely to cause a nonfatal infant injury? Beds and cribs.

But these risk factors change dramatically as children become more mobile. Stairs, for example, aren't a major risk to 1-month-olds, but they're the biggest risk to 12-month-olds.

"The study ... demonstrates a shifting trajectory of risk during the first year of life," note CDC researchers Karin A. Mack, PhD, and colleagues.

The most dangerous things for infants change according to the child's age:

  • Beds are linked to the most injuries up to age 12 months, mostly because infants fall, roll, or slide off them.
  • Car seats are among the top three products linked to infant injury up to 6 months of age (mostly because kids lurch out of them or because the car seat falls with the child strapped to it). But after age 6 months, car seats drop out of the top 10 causes of child injury.
  • Infant walkers are among the top 10 products linked to infant injury for 6- to 10-month olds.
  • Stairs rank among the top 10 products linked to injury at every age, but climb in rank with age. One important cause of stairway injury is when a caregiver carrying a child falls on the stairs.
  • Stroller-related injuries peak between 2 and 4 months of age. They drop out of the top 10 after age 9 months.

The leading causes of infant injury are:

  • Falls (170,000 annual injuries)
  • Being struck or crushed by an object (other than a vehicle or a machine), a person, or an animal (more than 44,000 annual injuries)
  • Fire or burn injuries (more than 17,000 annual injuries)

However, some infrequent causes of injury are particularly dangerous:

  • Drowning. Only about 600 infants are treated for drowning in an average year, but about half of these kids are hospitalized.
  • Inhalation/suffocation injuries hospitalize about 11% of kids who sustain them.
  • Motor vehicle occupant injuries hospitalize 9.5% of kids who sustain them.
  • Foreign-body injuries hospitalize about 9% of kids who sustain them.
  • Poisoning injuries hospitalize 7.5% of kids who sustain them.
  • Fire and burn injuries hospitalize about 5% of kids who sustain them.

Parents and caregivers, Mack and colleagues stress, should make infants' environments as safe as possible. But they need to do more.

"When parents are aware of first-year motor milestones and their associated injury risks, they can be better prepared to help predict and prevent their infants from being injured," CDC researcher Julie Gilchrist, MD, says in a news release.

Mack and colleagues report the findings in the May issue of Pediatrics.

(What tumbles have your little ones taken? Share what steps you have taken to keep them safe on WebMD's Parenting: 9-12 Months message board.)

Show Sources


Mack, K.A. Pediatrics, May 2008; vol 121: pp 930-937.

News release, CDC, May 6, 2008.

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