When my kids were growing up, a highchair was about as sophisticated as a feeding seat got! Nowadays, parents have more options, including Bumbo seats, to make feeding little ones more convenient.
But with the convenience of these upgraded highchairs and alternate feeding seats comes risk. Active kids and gravity don’t always mix, so if left unattended, children can fall from these seats and sustain injuries that can be quite serious.
Unfortunately, incidents of children being injured from falls from highchairs and other booster seats are on the rise; in fact, a recent study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that more than 9,400 children were treated each year during the course of their study for injuries associated with highchairs or booster seats. That’s 24 children a day being treated in emergency rooms across the U.S. for these injuries!
It’s easy to think of these seats as "safety chairs", as they often come with straps and buckles to keep children secure; however, these shouldn’t be confused with things like car seats that are anchored to your car seat and unable to be moved by the force of even a small child.
The popular Bumbo Baby Seat, which is round with horseshoe-shaped leg openings, was recalled in 2012 due to reports of children being injured from falling from the seats, both when they were on the floor and when they were placed on tables or other elevated surfaces.
Owners of the Bumbo seats were encouraged to contact the seat’s maker, Bumbo International, for a free repair kit that includes a seatbelt and anchors to attach the belt to the seat. If you have a Bumbo seat and are in need of the repair kit, visit http://recall.bumbousa.com for information. If you have young children, it’s also a good idea to visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website at www.cpsc.gov for updates on recent recalls.
If a child falls from a highchair or booster seat, injuries can range from extremity fractures (think arm or wrist) to damage to the face, teeth or jaw, and even skull fractures. If your child has fallen and you suspect the injuries may be serious, look for swelling and significant bruising; if present, they would warrant a visit to the emergency room to rule out a fracture.
If your child has fallen and hit his head, watch for signs of sleepiness, nausea or vomiting, changes in alertness and uncontrollable crying that can’t be consoled after some time. If your child experiences these symptoms, visit the ER as soon as you can to have them checked out.
Supervision is key to preventing your kids from falling from a highchair or booster seat. It’s no surprise that young ones enjoy trying to stand and wiggle, which can lead to falls.
What else can parents do to prevent these falls? Here are some tips from the Juvenile Product Manufacturer’s Association:
• Never depend on the feeding tray to restrain or protect baby. Instead, secure the waist and crotch restraint straps. Use the restraints every time you place a child in the high chair to prevent falls from the child standing up or sliding out.
• Prevent tip over by keeping the highchair far enough from the table, counter or wall so the baby can’t push off from it.
• Secure the safety latch on a folding highchair each time you unfold it for use.
• Never use a bouncer or booster seat on an elevated surface like countertops.
• Do not use portable hook-on chairs on glass or loose tabletop, or on a table with a single pedestal, leaf, tablecloth or placemat.
• Check stability and sturdiness of table and high chair before seating a child.
It’s always a sad thing to see a child in our Emergency Department with an injury that was preventable. Make sure to heed these safety tips to keep your kids safe in their seats.
Sam Smith, MD, is surgeon in chief at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and a professor of Surgery at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He writes a column each week covering a variety of kids’ medical concerns. If you have a topic you’d like him to consider addressing, email firstname.lastname@example.org.