July 6, 2010 -- Car seats are supposed to protect infants from injury during a traffic accident, but they can increase the risk for injury when used inappropriately outside of the car, such as in the home or in a shopping cart, according to a new study.
Shital N. Parikh, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, led a study analyzing data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Surveillance System database. The researchers estimate a total of 43,562 car seat-related injuries resulted in trips to the emergency room between 2003 and 2007. Injuries that occurred during a traffic accident were excluded from the analysis, and only infants 1 year old and younger were included.
The researchers found that based on a sample of nearly 1,900 infants:
- 85% of injuries were related to falls. Of these, 64.8% fell out of a car seat; 14.6% of injuries were caused by a car seat falling from an elevated surface; and 5.6% occurred from other types of falls.
- Head and neck injuries were the most common type of injury; 84.3% of infants suffered a head or neck injury, 62.4% of which occurred in infants younger than 4 months old.
- 54.4% of injuries occurred in baby boys.
- 8.4% of infants had to be admitted to the hospital for their injuries.
- Three deaths occurred.
Researchers also reported that the most common surfaces from which infants fell out of car seats included shopping carts (8.1%), tabletops (6.3%), and countertops (3.8%). The study is published in the August issue of Pediatrics.
Car seats have reduced traffic-related fatalities by 71%, the authors note. However, parents need to be educated about the risks of improperly using car seats in the home, they say.
Overall, “injuries are a leading cause of death and morbidity for the first year of life,” the authors write. In this sample, newborns to babies aged 4 months appear to be particularly vulnerable to car seat-related injuries in the home. Younger infants spend more time lying down compared with older infants, who are more mobile. “This fact could give parents a false sense of security,” the researchers write.