"On average, we're still seeing a child every six minutes rushed to an emergency department in this country because of a stair-related injury," a 10-year study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital has found.
The silver lining to the stark findings is that the number of injuries has actually fallen by 11 percent over the decade researchers have been following injury data. But one million children under the age of five visited emergency rooms during the study period, more than three-quarters of whom had head and neck injuries.
A notable finding was that many children were hurt while being carried up the stairs, and those children were three times more likely to require hospital care than those who had fallen while climbing stairs on their own.
Not every home can accommodate the wall-mounted safety gates that are recommended at the top of every flight of stairs, said Dr. Brian Smith, director of the Center, in a statement. And in many older homes, staircases are not straight, meaning that some stairs might be slightly shorter or deeper than others, causing a tripping hazard.
"Much more attention should be paid to making stairs safer and user friendly, especially through building codes," said Smith in a statement.
What can parents do to safeguard their stairs? Smith offers these safety tips:
- Never let children play on stairs
- Always keep stairs free of toys and clutter to prevent tripping
- If you carry a child down the stairs, always keep one hand on the handrail for balance, and never carry anything else at the same time, and install safe handrails.
- Rails that are less than 6¼ inches around are safest, because they make it easier for you to put your hand around the entire rail with a firm power grip.
- Avoid wider, decorative handrails that are difficult to firmly grasp.
Image: Mom and baby on stairs, via Shutterstock.