BC Children’s Hospital is warning parents about window safety as warmer temperatures are expected to hit the region this weekend and into next week.
Health authorities say between 2009 and 2015, 146 children were treated at trauma centres around the province after falling from a window or balcony.
Approximately 85 per cent of these hospitalizations involved children between the ages of one and six.
Dr. Ash Singhal, a pediatric neurosurgeon and the medical director of the BC Children’s Hospital trauma program, has seen and treated a lot of these injuries.
“These are the kinds of heart-breaking stories we sometimes experience and that’s why we really want to emphasize that this is far easier to prevent that to treat,” Singhal said.
“We hear the same thing over and over again from families — ‘I wish I had known. I wish I had thought of this.’”
The hospital warns children are naturally curious and love to climb, and often do not realize when they are putting themselves at risk. Even small children are capable of pushing open an unlocked window, and toddlers, who have a higher centre of gravity, can easily fall headfirst through a window screen if they lean against it.
And with warm weather on the way, the risk is even higher.
“We tend to see a spike every summer,” said Lisa Romein, BC Children’s Hospital trauma program manager. “It happens when we start the warm weather. We have already had a number of cases.”
The hospital is offering the following tips on how to prevent children from falling from windows and balconies:
• Don’t underestimate a child’s mobility; children begin climbing before they can walk.
• Move furniture and household items away from windows to discourage children from climbing to peer out.
• Be particularly mindful of toddlers, who may climb on anything to get higher.
• Remember that window screens will not prevent children from falling through. They keep bugs out – not children in.
• Install window guards on windows above the ground level. These act as a gate in front of the window.
• Alternatively, fasten your windows so that they cannot open more than 10 centimetres (four inches). Children can fit through spaces as small as 12 centimetres (five inches) wide.
• In either case, ensure there is a safe release option for your windows in case of a house fire.
• Don’t leave children unattended on balconies or decks. Move furniture or planters away from the edges to keep kids from climbing up and over.
• Talk to your children about the dangers of opening and playing near windows, particularly on upper floors of the home or in a high-rise dwelling.
• Consider installing safety glass in large windows and French doors so they won’t shatter if a child runs or falls into them.