By Kelly Owen, RN, BSN, Salem Hospital trauma nurse and injury prevention specialist
No one ever thinks it could happen to his or her family. Tragically, however, it sometimes does.
As summer temperatures rise, more people tend to leave windows open at home – especially if they don’t have air conditioning. That’s when there is an increased risk of kids falling out windows.
Local and national problem
The Oregon Trauma Registry reported that 26 children fell from windows statewide in 2014 — two died.
The U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission found that window falls were connected to eight deaths and 3,300 injuries in 2014 among children age five and under.
A Safe Kids Worldwide study also listed unintentional falls as the No. 1 cause of non-deadly injuries for kids in the United States.
How it happens
Most window falls occur when children are left in unattended or unsupervised situations. Grownups face distractions from phone calls, texting, watching TV — or an infinite number of other reasons.
It only takes a split second.
Here’s the good news: Window falls are a seasonal problem and also 100 percent preventable.
Oregon case inspires safety campaign
Window falls first gained attention in Oregon in 2009 after the deadly case involving four-year-old Parker Reck, who fell through the screen of a second-story window.
His mother later launched the Stop At 4 campaign, which became the first major public awareness effort to promote window safety.
Most small kids can manage to get out a window that is open wider than four inches.
To prevent that from happening, people should consider installing a guard or window stop to keep the window from opening more than four inches.
Teach your children well
It’s important for parents and caregivers to teach children about window safety. Screens are something many of us take for granted. They will not stop kids from falling out a window.
They need to understand that window screens keep bugs out, but they don’t keep kids in.
Keep areas near windows clear
Make sure furniture or anything children can climb on is at least two feet away from windows.
Kids should also learn to play at least two feet away from windows. Consider taping off an area with kids’ help to form a “no kid zone” so they can see what that really means.
A wealth of information and resources are available online to help parents get better informed about window falls. Visit Stop At 4 and Safe Kids Oregon.