Every year, nearly 13,000 children end up in emergency rooms across the United States because they've fallen from their strollers. And about 200 of those kids have to be admitted to the hospital for injuries, says a new study in the November issue of Pediatrics.
"Because most of these injuries were from falls, it suggests that proper restraint use would prevent injury," says study author Dr. Elizabeth Powell, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
"We've all had a scare at some point. You're on your way to the park and it's only two blocks, so you don't strap your kid in. But they only have to fall once and then you strap them in every time," says Powell, who is a mother of two.
Powell and her colleagues studied data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on stroller injuries from 1994 through 1998. The information obtained included the age and sex of the child, the date of injury, a description of the injury and the place of injury.
During the study period, 64,373 children under 3 years old suffered stroller-related injuries serious enough to warrant an emergency-room visit. Nine hundred and ninety-two had to be admitted to the hospital for further treatment or observation.
The average age for injury was 11 months old. Fifty-one percent of the injuries occurred in boys. And 87 percent of the injuries were to the head or face. Falls accounted for 76 percent of the injuries. The stroller tipping over caused 11 percent of the injuries, while in 6 percent of the cases, part of the child's body got caught in the stroller. Youngsters tripped over the stroller another 6 percent of the time, and 2 percent of the injuries involved motor vehicles. One percent of the injuries were caused by stroller collapse.
Powell says it's quite likely that many more children are injured in their strollers, but the injuries aren't serious enough to require emergency room care.
Debbie Brown, a registered nurse and the trauma program manager at Children's Medical Center of Dallas, Texas, agrees that many stroller injuries probably go unreported.
"There are a good number of injuries from stroller accidents, but the number of admissions is very small. Some may be seen at their pediatrician's office," she says.
Brown says preventing most of these injuries isn't tough. "Strap those kids in," she advises -- even when you're rushed, even if you think your child will stay put.
Powell also advises not using the handles of the stroller to hold shopping bags or other items, to avoid tipping.
She says some restraint systems -- such as ones that go over the shoulders and across the waist -- may be better than others, so this is something to carefully consider when you're buying a stroller. Also, she recommends checking to see how accessible the restraint system is after you have collapsed and then reopened the stroller. Some restraints fall under the seat and are difficult to pull out again.
What To Do
Kid's Health offers tips on choosing safe baby products, including strollers. To find out if your stroller or other baby products have been recalled, visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and search for your product by type or by manufacturer.