Injuries related to highchairs continue to rise, with more than 9,400 children treated each year in American emergency rooms for bumps, bruises and head injuries caused by highchairs, according to a study released Monday from the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
Despite the fact that millions of defective highchairs have been recalled in recent years, researchers at the hospital's Center for Injury Research and Policy found that the number of children under the age of 3 who were treated in emergency departments between 2003 and 2010 increased by 22 percent. On average, one child each hour was treated for such an injury, according to the study, published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics.
"Families may not think about the dangers associated with the use of high chairs," said Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research, in a statement. "High chairs are typically used in kitchens and dining areas, so when a child falls from the elevated height of the high chair, he is often falling head first onto a hard surface such as tile or wood flooring with considerable force.
Most often, the children seen were treated for closed head injuries, which include concussions and internal head injuries. More than one-third of the children injured (37 percent) were treated for closed head injuries.
Not only were closed head injuries the most common injury associated with highchairs, but they were also the type that saw the greatest increase between 2003 and 2010 – up nearly 90 percent, from 2,558 in 2003 to 4,789 in 2010.
Additionally, 33 percent were treated for bumps and bruises, and 19 percent were treated for cuts associated with falls from highchairs. Overall, 93 percent of the injuries involved a fall from a highchair or booster seat.
When information was available for what children were doing just before a fall from a highchair or booster seat, two-thirds of them were climbing or standing in the chair, which suggests that the chair's safety restraints were either not being used or were ineffective.
According to the study, millions of highchairs have been recalled in recent years. Most recently, BabyHome USA Inc. recalled about 1,100 of its Eat model highchairs in March, due to a "strangulation hazard." According to the recall notice, the front opening between the tray and seat bottom was wide enough for a child's body to pass through.
And in October 2012, Graco Children's Products Inc. recalled about 86,000 wood highchairs in the United States, and about 3,400 in Canada, because of a fall hazard. The company received 58 reports of the highchairs' seats "loosening or detaching from the base," according to the recall notice. Additionally, at the time of the recall, there had been nine reports of children falling from the chair, and one report of a concussion in Canada.
"The number one thing parents can do to prevent injuries related to high chairs is to use the safety restraint system in the chair," Smith said in the statement. "Buckling your child in every time you use the high chair can help keep them safe."