Kids at Risk for Injuries From Falling Furniture

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A new study reports that about 264,200 U.S. kids went to hospital emergency departments between 1990 and 2007 for injuries caused by furniture tip-overs, and that 300 of the children died.

Studying data collected by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the researchers report a 41% increase since the early '90s in the number of kids injured by falling TVs, shelves, and dressers. Most injuries (about 75%) are in kids younger than 6, who most often are hurt by a falling TV.

Almost 15,000 kids end up in ERs each year due to such accidents; the study's authors speculate that the rise might be due to changes in furniture or TV design, more furniture in homes, or parents taking kids to a hospital more readily than in years past.

To reduce risks, the researchers recommend:

  • putting TVs on stands that are low to the ground
  • attaching TVs and furniture to the wall with safety straps, L-brackets, or even Velcro
  • not putting tempting items (like toys and remote controls) on top of furniture or TVs, as kids might try to climb up to retrieve them

They also suggest buying furniture with wide legs or solid bases, installing drawer stops to keep drawers in chests from pulling all the way out, and placing heavy items on shelves close to the floor to help prevent tipping.

What This Means to You

Parents know that childproofing in a house with an adventurous toddler is important, but might not realize that kids need to still be protected long after they've mastered walking. Unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in kids 14 years old and under, with more than a third of these injuries happening in the home.

So be sure to thoroughly childproof all areas of your home and be watchful, especially of babies and toddlers, at all times. It only takes an instant for a youngster to fall, run over to a hot stove, or ingest a hazardous material.

If your child is injured — by falling furniture or any other mishap — be sure to seek medical attention right away if he or she:

  • is an infant
  • has lost consciousness, even momentarily
  • has any of these symptoms:
    • won't stop crying
    • complains of head and neck pain
    • becomes difficult to console
    • isn't walking normally

If your child is not an infant, has not lost consciousness, and is alert and behaving normally after a fall:

  • Apply an ice pack or instant cold pack to the injured area for 20 minutes. If you use ice, always wrap it in a washcloth or sock; ice applied directly to bare skin can cause frostbite.
  • Observe your child carefully for the next 24 hours. If you notice any signs of an injury, call your doctor immediately.
  • If the incident has occurred close to bedtime or naptime and your child falls asleep soon afterward, check in every few hours to look for twitching limbs or disturbances in color or breathing.

If your child sustains a head injury, watch for signs of a possible concussion, including:

  • "seeing stars" and feeling dazed, dizzy, or lightheaded
  • memory loss, such as trouble remembering what happened right before and after the injury
  • nausea or vomiting
  • headache

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: May 2009

Source: "Injuries From Furniture Tip-overs Among Children and Adolescents in the United States, 1990-2007." Clinical Pediatrics, May 2009.

Related Resources

OrganizationU.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) This federal agency collects information about consumer goods and issues recalls on unsafe or dangerous products.
OrganizationAmerican Red Cross The website of the American Red Cross provides information on first aid and safety. It also gives details about enrolling in babysitting classes.
OrganizationNational Safety Council The National Safety Council offers information on first aid, CPR, environmental health, and safety.
Web SitePoison Control Centers Use this toll-free number to reach any of the United States' 65 local poison control centers - (800) 222-1222 - or visit the website to find the poison control center nearest you.

Related Articles

Head Injuries Head injuries fall into two categories: external and internal. Learn more about both kinds, how to prevent them, and what to do if your child is injured.
Broken Bones Instruction Sheet Broken bones are not uncommon in children - especially after a fall. A broken bone requires emergency medical care. Find out what to do in this printer-friendly version.
Childproofing and Preventing Household Accidents You might think of babies and toddlers when you hear the words "babyproofing" or "childproofing," but unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in kids 14 years old and under.
Concussions The term concussion conjures up the image of a child knocked unconscious while playing sports. But concussions can happen with any head injury, often without any loss of consciousness.
Falls Instruction Sheet Although most result in mild bumps and bruises, some falls can cause serious injuries that require immediate medical attention.

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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