Prevent Infant and Toddler Head Injuries at Home
In the blink of an eye, your baby learns to roll, crawl and walk. Infants and toddlers are prone to falls because they cannot control their head movements very well and their heads are large in proportion to their bodies, says Kate Cronan, MD, emergency medicine physician at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE. Such falls are the most common source of childhood head injuries.
“As far as why children are more susceptible to head injuries, a lot has to do with what adults do or fail to do to protect them,” says Tom Drake, MD, attending physician in pediatric rehabilitation at the Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper in Moorestown, NJ.
Follow these basic tips to reduce the likelihood of injury to your tot at home.
Use safety straps
Children should be secured when they are in a high chair, swing or seat because they can easily slip out and fall. The rule applies to changing tables, too. “Once babies get to two or three months, they start rolling over,” says Jinn-Wien Teng, MD, a pediatrician at Red Lion Pediatrics in Philadelphia. “A lot of diaper changing tables are at waist height, which is a big drop, so you want to make sure you don’t leave them unattended at all and secure them.”
Studies have shown that infant walkers are not safe, Cronan says. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has called for a ban on baby walkers with wheels. Left unattended, an infant can make his way to a staircase and roll down it. Both Cronan and Teng recommend using a stationary activity center instead of a rolling walker.
Stairs present a danger for curious climbers. Use safety gates to protect children from falling down stairs, Cronan says. While gates provide additional safety, they should not be a substitute for supervision. “Don’t leave a child unattended near stairs even if there is a gate,” Cronan says. “Young children can climb up the gate and fall.”
“Once children begin to crawl and walk, there are things they can climb on,” Teng says, “so you want to make sure they don’t end up falling down or pulling something down on top of themselves.” Household furnishings that children might climb include beds, bookshelves, cabinets, dressers, entertainment centers and tables. Secure furniture to the wall using mounts, brackets, braces, anchors or wall straps to prevent furniture from tipping onto children.
Again, a watchful eye is just as important. “It takes very little time for a child to climb on something and fall,” Cronan says.
Survey the scene
While following the above tips can diminish the risk of an infant or child sustaining a head injury in the home, nothing can substitute for parents being aware of the child’s environment. “Get down to floor level and look around for all the hazards; explore the child’s space,” Drake suggests.
Melissa Komar is a freelance writer and the editor of Star Newspaper.