Thou­sands of tod­dlers in­jured by in­fant walk­ers

These are good par­ents who were care­fully su­per­vis­ing their chil­dren and us­ing the baby walker as in­tended. Their only er­ror was that they be­lieved the myth that baby walk­ers are safe to use.

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Front Page - Dr Peter Richel, chief of pae­di­atrics at North­ern Westch­ester Hos­pi­tal in Mount Kisco, New York

DE­SPITE decades of warn­ings about the haz­ards of baby walk­ers, thou­sands of tod­dlers still end up in hos­pi­tal emer­gency rooms with walker-re­lated in­juries, new re­search shows. The study re­ported that in the US, more than 230,000 chil­dren younger than 15 months old were treated in emer­gency rooms be­tween 1990 and 2014. More than 10,000 of those young­sters ended up be­ing ad­mit­ted to the hos­pi­tal.

“Baby walk­ers re­main a se­ri­ous and pre­ventable source of in­jury to young chil­dren and should not be used,” said se­nior study au­thor Dr Gary Smith, di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for In­jury Re­search and Pol­icy at Na­tion­wide Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal in Colum­bus, Ohio. “Baby walk­ers give quick mo­bil­ity – up to four feet per sec­ond – to young chil­dren be­fore they are de­vel­op­men­tally ready,” he said, stress­ing, “there are still too many se­ri­ous in­juries oc­cur­ring re­lated to this prod­uct.”

Most in­juries oc­cur when a baby in a walker falls down stairs. In­juries re­lated to walk­ers in­clude head in­juries, such as skull frac­tures and con­cus­sions, burns, poi­son­ing and drown­ing, the study team noted. In 1997, a vol­un­tary safety stan­dard re­quired the base of baby walk­ers to be wider than a stan­dard 36-inch door­way, or to have a de­vice that au­to­mat­i­cally en­gages a brake if one of the wheels drops over the edge of a step, the re­searchers said. Canada banned baby walk­ers in 2004.

In 2010, the US Con­sumer Prod­uct Safety Com­mis­sion (CPSC) is­sued ad­di­tional safety stan­dards. These stan­dards made it eas­ier for the CPSC to stop non­com­ply­ing im­ported walk­ers from en­ter­ing the mar­ket­place. The lat­est study had both good news and bad news. The re­searchers found that be­tween 1990 and 2003 baby walker in­juries went down by 84.5 per cent. The num­ber of in­juries from fall­ing down stairs dropped by 91 per cent.

Dur­ing the four years af­ter the 2010 stan­dards were im­ple­mented, an­nual in­juries dropped by nearly 23 per cent com­pared with the four years be­fore. But of the chil­dren in­jured, 91 per cent had a head or neck in­jury. Nearly three-quar­ters were hurt af­ter fall­ing down the stairs. Smith said par­ents still un­der­es­ti­mate the safety risk these de­vices pose. “Warn­ing la­bels and ed­u­ca­tional cam­paigns have not been shown to be ef­fec­tive strate­gies for re­duc­ing baby walker-re­lated in­juries. Many fam­i­lies still use baby walk­ers, de­spite be­ing aware of their po­ten­tial dan­gers,” he said.

“Many par­ents be­lieve baby walk­ers of­fer their chil­dren en­ter­tain­ment, pro­mote walk­ing, and pro­vide a baby ac­tiv­ity while par­ents are do­ing some­thing else,” Smith said. He added that these prod­ucts do not pro­mote walk­ing. In fact, they may de­lay men­tal and mo­tor de­vel­op­ment, he said.

But Smith isn’t blam­ing par­ents for their baby’s in­juries. “These are good par­ents who were care­fully su­per­vis­ing their chil­dren and us­ing the baby walker as in­tended. Their only er­ror was that they be­lieved the myth that baby walk­ers are safe to use.” Dr Peter Richel, chief of pae­di­atrics at North­ern Westch­ester Hos­pi­tal in Mount Kisco, New York, said he wasn’t sur­prised by the find­ings. “No mat­ter what gates you have or how se­curely you shut a door, kids still find a way to get around them,” said Richel, who wasn’t in­volved with the study.

“I don’t ad­vo­cate us­ing mov­able walk­ers, but if par­ents can find a safe place for one – a sunken liv­ing room or a fin­ished base­ment – then I don’t have a prob­lem with them,” he ex­plained. But Richel said sta­tion­ary ac­tiv­ity cen­tres are prefer­able and can be good for a child’s de­vel­op­ment. The study was pub­lished on­line in the jour­nal Pe­di­atrics.

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