Friday, May 18, 2001

Local emergency rooms usually record an increase in childrens injuries from falls out of windows around this time each year, health care officials say.
“In general, the traumas in the emergency room certainly increase this time of year … . This is the season for it — you bet,” said Christina Johns, an attending physician at Childrens National Medical Center.
Regionally and nationally, springs warm air encourages high-rise dwellers to open their windows, allowing toddlers to topple from them. Emergency rooms in the United States annually treat 4,500 children for injuries from falls from windows.
“The typical story is that a young child — once the child starts to walk — will crawl up into the window sill and just being curious, they fall out,” said Dr. Johns, who treated a child who fell out of a window Tuesday.
At the Spring Hill Lake Apartment complex in Greenbelt, three children have fallen from windows in the past two weeks, said Mark Brady, spokesman for the Prince Georges County Fire and Emergency Medical Department.
A 2-year-old boy tumbled out of a third-floor window at the apartment complex on Tuesday, but remarkably had little more than bumps and bruises.
“These screens [on windows] are not strong enough … . Theyre not made strong enough to hold a child from falling through,” Mr. Brady said.
“On May 4, a 7-year-old girl fell, and on May 5, a 1-year-old boy fell,” Mr. Brady said. “Both came away lucky, suffering just scrapes and bruises.”
Not all children are so fortunate. Reports indicate that nationally this type of accident claims the lives of at least 12 children a year.
Study after study, some as far back as the 1970s, show that these accidents could have been avoided.
A study at Childrens Hospital Medical Center of Cincinnati found that window guards could have prevented 86 children from falling out of windows in Cincinnati between 1991 and 1997.
In 1977, the American Journal of Public Health published a study, which found that free window guards given to families with preschool-aged children in the Bronx, N.Y., cut the risk of those children falling out of windows by 50 percent.
But experts say window guards are no guarantee against children falling from windows.
“Having a guard on the window certainly would be a good thing,” said Dr. Johns, “but many kids will find a way around them. One hundred percent of five-year-olds can figure it out.”
She said the best way to decrease the risk is to keep a close watch over small children who might have access to an open window even if it has a guard or what appears to be a strong screen.
“With common sense and some close supervision, most of these injuries can be avoided,” Dr. Johns said, adding that parents and baby sitters watching several children at once should be especially careful.
“If anybody isnt keeping a real good eye on kids, and theyre watching a lot of kids, the risk factor increases,” she said.

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