High chairs were designed to offer older babies and younger toddlers a safer place to eat at the table. They’re usually higher from the ground than a regular chair, so a parent or caregiver (or sibling) can spoon feed the baby comfortably. If there’s an infant in the family, more than likely there’s a high chair in the house.
They’re great when used properly, but when children aren’t secured correctly, accidents can and do happen. In fact, a new safety study reveals that high chair injuries increased 22 percent between 2003 and 2009.
Emergency rooms staffs are treating an average of almost 9,500 high chair related injuries every year – that equates to one injured infant per hour.
"We know that these injuries can and do happen, but we did not expect to see the kind of increase that we saw," said study co-author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
"Most of the injuries we're talking about, over 90 percent, involve falls with young toddlers whose center of gravity is high, near their chest, rather than near the waist as it is with adults," Smith said. "So when they fall they topple, which means that 85 percent of the injuries we see are to the head and face."
Because the fall is from a seat that's higher than the traditional chair and typically onto a hard kitchen floor, "the potential for a serious injury is real," he added. "This is something we really need to look at more, so we can better understand why this seems to be happening more frequently."
Researchers analyzed data collected by the U.S. National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. The data concerned all high chair, booster seat, and normal chair-related injuries that occurred between 2003 and 2010 and involved children 3 years old and younger.
The researchers found that high chair/booster chair injuries rose from 8,926 in 2003 to 10,930 by 2010.
How are children getting injured? About two-thirds of the children had been either standing or climbing in the chair just before the fall, the study authors noted.
Either chair restraints aren’t working as they should or parents are not using them properly.
"In recent years, there have been millions of high chairs recalled because they do not meet current safety standards. Most of these chairs are reasonably safe when restraint instructions are followed, but even so, there were 3.5 million high chairs recalled during our study period alone," said Smith. However, even highly educated and informed parents aren't always fully aware of a recall when it happens, he noted.
Still, Smith believes that a 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act will lead to a notable drop in recalls in coming years because it calls for independent third-party testing of children's products before they're put on the market.
The most common diagnosis from a high chair fall is a concussion or internal head injury. This type of head trauma accounted for 37 percent of high chair injuries, and its frequency imbed by nearly 90 percent during the eight years studied.
Nearly 6 in 10 children experienced an injury to their head or neck after a high chair fall, while almost 3 in 10 experienced a facial injury, the study found.
When the researchers looked at falls from traditional chairs, children’s injuries were typically broken bones, cuts and bruises.
While the tray may look like it can block a child from climbing or standing, it’s not a restraint. Children need to be buckled in.
Supervision plays a key role in keeping your little one safe when in a high chair. Many falls happen when a parent or caregiver leaves the room or is not facing the baby. "Even if a chair does meet current safety standards and the restraint is used properly, there's never 100 percent on this . . . Parents will always need to be vigilant." said Smith.
Some high chairs have wheels, so make sure that if yours does- they are locked when the baby is in the chair.
Also, never place the high chair next to a wall or counter where your baby or toddler can push against it, causing the chair to become unstable.
High chairs are convenient and can be very safe when used properly. Make sure your child is restrained properly and that you can see your baby whenever you move away from the chair.
The study was published online Dec. 9 in Clinical Pediatrics.
- Do You Have a Happy Spitter?
- Shy Toddlers: Language Skills Delayed?
- Sleep & Your Baby
- Britax Strollers recalled Due to Amputation & Injuries
- All About Naps