Toddler tragedy highlights falls issues
Yesterday a two-year-old girl tragically died after falling from the fourth floor of a block of flats in Sheffield.
She had fallen through a broken glass panel of a communal garden balcony.
Injuries from children’s falls are much more common than people think with 45 under fives every day admitted to hospital from a fall and and one under five is admitted every day after a fall from a building..
Toddlers develop physical skills so fast, it’s often very difficult to keep up. You’ll be familiar with the refrain ‘I didn’t know he could do that’. Sadly, so too are medical staff in A&E departments.
Injuries from serious falls are especially linked to a young child reaching new developmental milestones. That chair or sofa by the window was lovely when they were a baby. Now they’re walking or climbing however, it can be deadly.
What’s more, young children’s boundless curiosity isn’t matched by their understanding of danger or by reliable memory. That means it’s important for parents and carers to keep children safe from serious falls.
So although they may know not to clamber up to an open window, if they hear a dog barking for example, they're curious to climb up to hear the dog, and forget about the danger of the window.
- Move furniture away from windows: As they develop their fine motor skills, young children will be able to open windows and balcony doors.
- Fit safety catches onto windows and keep balcony doors locked: Safety catches or locks on windows need to prevent the windows from opening more than 6.5cm (2.5").
- Make sure children are strapped in high chairs, no matter how briefly they will be in them: Falls from high chairs probably don’t seem that serious initially – the height of the highchair and distance to the ground is relatively low. However, unharnessed children can and do climb out of them and fall on to the floor. Commonly this is head first, and crucially, it is very often on to a hard kitchen floor, and it is these factors which make them very dangerous.
- Fit and use safety gates if you have children under the age of two: Safety gates are an essential piece of kit for homes with children under the age of two. You’ll need two, one at the bottom of the stairs and one by the top. Consider placing one near but not directly at the top of the stairs and one at the bottom, as they can be a trip hazard for children and adults.
- Change your baby's nappy on the floor: Finally, while they’re nice to look at, and save adults from bending over, changing tables can be dangerous. Babies can wriggle off them easily, and we do know of cases where they have subsequently sustained serious injuries.
Look who’s falling DVD pack
Finally, if you haven’t got one already, we strongly recommend using our Look who’s falling DVD resource pack. It’s got everything you need to deliver an informative session for parents. It costs just £36 plus P&P and can be used again and again (simply replenish the flyers).
The film includes:
- testimony from three parents
- an interview with Dr Andrew Curran, a consultant paediatric neurologist from Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital; and
- reconstructions of incidents from a child’s eye view.
Buy the Look who's falling DVD pack
Buy our parents packs:
Our toddlers pack plus and babies pack plus includes the falls DVD.
Visit our falls practitioner advice page:
Practical advice for practitioners on preventing falls.
Visit our falls safety advice page:
Practical advice for parents and carers on preventing serious falls
Watch an interview with Andrew Curran:
He discussing the financial and emotional impact of head injuries to a child and their family.