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Nursery Products To Blame For Rise In Infant Injuries, Study Finds

Injuries to babies associated with products like strollers and cribs have increased, a study finds.
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Injuries to babies associated with products like strollers and cribs have increased, a study finds.

Baby injuries associated with nursery products like carriers, strollers and cribs are on the rise, a study shows.

The study, published Monday, found a 23.7 percent increase in injuries to young children related to nursery products between 2003 and 2011. In all, the authors analyzed 21 years of emergency department data.

The vast majority of these injuries were to the head, neck or face, and 80 percent of infants were injured because they fell — almost always at home. This could include situations like a child wiggling and causing his or her carrier to fall off a countertop, or a baby careening down the stairs in his or her walker.

The numbers aren't surprising, says Jerri Rose, a physician and assistant professor of pediatric emergency medicine at Case Western Reserve University Medical School, who was not involved with the study.

She says when kids fall, they tend to fall headfirst.

"Babies have such large heads and so little control of their bodies, so in young children we often see injuries to their head and neck area," Rose says. "The head is a big target."

She is curious about the uptick in injuries, though, and speculates that the numbers may have climbed in recent years because of an increase in concussion identification by doctors and caregivers. Another factor may be that more nursery products are on the market and that they're increasing in popularity.

For example, if more people are using baby carriers, which in the study included both soft carriers and hard carriers such as detachable car seats, more injuries could follow.

Overall, the injuries in the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, weren't associated with one particular product:

  • 19.5 percent were associated with baby carriers, with seat-type carriers most likely to be implicated in injuries.
  • 18.6 percent were associated with cribs or mattresses
  • 16.5 percent were associated with strollers
  • 16.2 percent were associated with walkers, jumpers or exercisers
  • The numbers came from a public database of emergency department records across the United States. Researchers ultimately looked at 48,653 cases of patients younger than three years between 1991 to 2011.

    Based on these cases, researchers estimate that a child 3 years old or younger is treated in a United States emergency department for a nursery-product-related injury every eight minutes.

    Of course, most interactions between infants and their nursery products are perfectly safe and go as planned. But the increase in injuries does call for changes in both how caregivers are using baby products and in the design of the products, says Tracy Mehan, the manager of translational research at the Center for Injury Research and Policy in Ohio. Mehan worked with the authors on the study.

    For parents and caregivers, the authors suggest following the "four Rs" to keep their kids safe: research the product, check for recalls, register the product and read the manual.

    Before buying a product, Mehan says, check the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission website to see whether it has been recalled. Typically, a product recall will be put into place by the government or by the manufacturer if it becomes aware of a safety issue — like an infant bathtub that has a drowning risk, or a carrier that puts children at risk of falling.

    At that point, the government or company will place notices on its website to notify consumers about the recall. But because caregivers don't often check these sites, Mehan adds it's also important for caregivers to register the product with the manufacturer, because the company can notify them if something turns out to be wrong with the product.

    And while it might seem like common sense to read the manual, Mehan says many people forget.

    "It can be really exciting to bring home a new product, and you want to try it out and use it right away," she says. "But taking a few minutes and look at [the manual] to see how [the product] works, where to use it and confirming the it's the right one for your child's age and size can prevent mishaps."

    For more information on using products safely, the authors also suggest , HealthyChildren.org and the Nationwide Children's Hospital website.

    Of course, regulators and manufacturers also have a responsibility to make nursery products safe. For example, in the 1990s some children were using baby walkers to traverse living spaces so easily and quickly that they would end up tumbling down the stairs.

    After it became clear that baby walkers were causing an estimated 18,500 injuries every year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted in 1994 to guide their redesign. The current models don't move quickly.

    "You could be the most vigilant parent in the world, but if your child was in a baby walker [before the reform], he could take off really fast and fall headfirst down a set of stairs," Mehan says.

    After the mandated walker redesign made them less mobile, she adds, injuries associated with the product fell. That redesign was a main driver of the dip in infant injury noted in the early years of the study published Monday.

    Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Jessica Boddy
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