With the arrival of summer in Montreal, the issue of young children falling from balconies and screened or open windows and sustaining serious and even life-threatening injuries is once again of great concern to the Montreal Children's Hospital’s (MCH) Trauma Centre.
“Since the beginning of May, we have already responded to five trauma codes for children who have fallen from heights ranging between 20 and 40 metres,” says Debbie Friedman, Trauma Director and Director of the Montreal Children’s Hospital CHIRPP Program. She warns that such incidents can occur in the blink of an eye, causing serious and lasting damage. “Last year a two-year-old girl fell out of a living room window from a 40-foot height and sustained a spinal cord injury."
Friedman adds that over the past 10 years, the MCH’s Trauma Centre has treated more than 50 children who have sustained serious, and in several cases, fatal injuries after falling from a window. At least 50% of these cases involved children aged 18 months to four years old, an age group that is often curious and exploring their environment, without being aware of the consequences.
Adult supervision is essential
Parents and caregivers need to be aware of potential dangers in their home, or their child’s play environment. Screens can be flimsy, weak barriers, which can create a false sense of security. She recommends following these recommendations to ensure that young children who are most at risk stay safe:
- Avoid placing a bed, chair, table or dresser in front of a window, so that young children can’t climb up to explore.
- Use window guards, stops or partial bars on windows, especially in households with young children. These can be purchased at hardware stores.
- Ensure windows are not open more than 10 cm (4 inches).
- If constructing a new home, consider the placement of windows to allow for the safest layout possible.
- Keep all unopened doors and windows locked.
- Never depend on screens to keep children from falling out of windows.
- Whenever possible, open windows from the top - instead of the bottom.
Friedman reminds parents that a combination of education, supervision, and environmental modifications is the best way to help prevent serious injuries from occurring in and around the home.
Public Relations and Communications
The Montreal Children’s Hospital of the MUHC