The staff at the Montreal Children’s Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre is relieved the little two-year-old boy who fell four floors from his apartment after the window screen popped out is going to be okay.
However, the trauma specialists at the hospital are issuing an important alert to everyone that window screens are good at keeping bugs out, but not at keeping kids in.
With the warm and muggy weather upon us the issue of young children falling from screened windows and sustaining serious and even life-threatening injuries is once again of great concern to the Trauma and Injury Prevention Programs of the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
The Globe and Mail (June 4) reports that an 18-month-old toddler fell to his death after slipping out of a 28-storey window. Police said the boy fell through a bedroom window screen from the second-highest floor of the Toronto high-rise. By the time emergency crews arrived, a huge crowd had gathered at the foot of the building. Toronto police sergeant Chris Higgins said the boy had no vital signs and that attempts by paramedics to revive him proved futile. He was rushed to Toronto East General Hospital, but was pronounced dead a short time later. In Toronto, over the past eight years, about 50 children have been treated by medical staff after falling from a balcony or a window. At least 11 have died.
There was a similar such trauma in Ottawa several weeks ago, as well.
Over the past 10 years, the Trauma Program at the Montreal Children’s Hospital has treated approximately 50 children who have sustained injuries after falling from a window; 40% sustained serious injuries requiring hospitalization and involvement of MCH trauma program specialists. At least 50% of the cases occurred in children aged 18 months to four years old, an age when children are curious, exploring their environment, and not really aware of the consequences of their actions.
Important precautions to take include:
- Parents and caregivers need to be aware of the risk involved. Screens are quite flimsy and are a weak barrier; they can give a false sense of security. They may work for keeping insects out but not for keeping kids in.
- Do not put a bed, chair or dresser in front of the window since it is an invitation to climb for this age group which is most at risk.
- A combination of education, supervision and environmental modifications is recommended. These recommendations should also be taken into consideration when new houses are constructed and the placement of windows is considered.
The Trauma and Prevention Programs support the use of window guards, stops or partial bars on windows, especially in households with young children. You can purchase these devices at hardware stores or stores that sell kids’ safety products.
“I think it is important to keep in mind that the potential for serious injury is clear and that we don’t need to see hundreds of cases to prove it,” says Debbie Friedman, Director of the Trauma and Prevention Programs.
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