You install baby gates to keep your little one from falling down stairs or away from areas in the house that are not baby-proofed. But baby gates do not always prove to be safe. In fact, the number of children treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to baby gates has quadrupled since 1990.
A new study, conducted by researchers in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital, has found gates can lead to injury if used incorrectly.
From 1990 through 2010, ERs treated an estimated 37,673 children under the age of seven for baby gate –related injuries.
The study used data obtained from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which is operated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
The researchers found that more than 60 percent of the children injured were younger than two years old, and they were most often injured by falls down stairs after a gate collapsed or when it was left open. Injuries caused by these accidents lead to soft tissue injuries, such as sprains and strains, and traumatic brain injuries, said the researchers.
Cuts were the main injury for 2 to 6 years-olds from climbing on the gate.
The most common injuries were bumps, bruises, cuts and lacerations. However, over 16 percent were traumatic brain injuries, Lara McKenzie, Ph.D., the senior and corresponding author and associate professor of Pediatrics, Center for Injury Research and Policy at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, told Healthline.
McKenzie offered this advice to parents, "Gates are a common, if not essential, safety device in homes to prevent young children from potentially hazardous stairways, and to limit access to restricted areas — for example, the kitchen when you are cooking. Current recommendations suggest that gates be installed in stairways and between rooms in homes with children between six months and two years of age, or until the child has learned how to open the gate or when the child is able to climb over the gate."
Parents are not the only ones that need to be aware of these guidelines. Grandparents and caregivers should also know about the recommendations.
"When your grandkids come to visit, it is essential to have the correct types of gates in place to keep your grandkids safe in your home. You can be strategic in limiting children's access to dangerous areas by installing gates at the top and bottom of stairs and between rooms. Also, do not use the old accordion-style gates. The sale of these gates was banned because of the risk of strangulation. Make sure any gates you use meet current safety guidelines," said McKenzie.
The researchers offered these baby gate safety tips:
- Use hardware-mounted baby gates at the top of stairways.
- Gates that only press against walls, called pressure-mounted gates, are not secure enough to prevent falls.
- Install gates in homes with children between six months and two years of age.
- If possible, remove the gates when the child turns two, or when the child has learned to open the gate or climb over it.
- If you can't remove a gate because of other children in the home, use a gate without notches or gaps that could be used for climbing.
The study was published in Academic Pediatrics.
Source: Sandra Levy, http://www.healthline.com/health-news/baby-gates-injuries-emergency-room-050514