NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Every hour, on average, a child ends up in a U.S. emergency room with an injury associated with a high chair, according to a new study. And the risk seems to be rising.
Each year between 2003 and 2010, an average of about 9,500 infants and toddlers came to U.S. emergency rooms with high-chair-related injuries.
Injuries increased, however, toward the end of that eight-year period.
“By the end of the study in 2010, there were around 11,000 kids being seen every year,” Dr. Gary Smith, the study’s senior author, told Reuters Health.
Children were most likely to injure their head, his study found.
The most common injuries associated with high chairs were so-called closed-head injuries, such as concussions. Those were followed by bruises and cuts.
“One of the things we need to be aware of is a high chair elevates a child above what a typical chair would,” Smith said. “The high chair is often used in dining areas with hard floors.”
Not all of the medical records described what kids were doing right before the injury. But among those that did, two thirds reported that children were either climbing or standing in their high chairs.
“The restraining systems are there for a reason,” Smith said. “The tray won’t keep a child in a chair. The restraints must be used and used correctly.”
Smith, who directs the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and his colleagues write in the journal Clinical Pediatrics that so-called nursery furniture - like high chairs - are generally believed to be safe, but they account for 6 of every 100 injuries in children younger than age 3.
Also, the researchers found that more than 3.4 million high chairs had been recalled due to faulty designs since 2008.
For the new study, they used data from the National Electronic Surveillance System. The database estimates the number of U.S. emergency visits from a sample of 100 hospitals with 24-hour emergency rooms.
They found that there were 402,479 visits to U.S. emergency rooms associated with chairs between 2003 and 2010.
The majority - about 41,000 per year - were associated with regular chairs, but about 9,500 injuries per year were linked to high chairs.
Over the study period, the researchers found that the number of high chair injuries per year increased about 22 percent, from 8,926 injuries in 2003 to 10,930 in 2010.
The increase doesn’t mean high chairs are becoming more unsafe, however.
It could be, Smith said, that high chairs are more common today than in 2003. It could also mean that parents and guardians are more likely to bring their children to an emergency room after a fall than before.
It’s also possible that some “recalled” high chairs are still in use, he said.
“The good news,” he added, is that only about 3 percent of the children with high-chair injuries had to be hospitalized. Most could be treated in the emergency room and released.
Smith said it’s hard to give parents a universal rule about when to take their child to an emergency room after a fall from a high chair. It depends on the circumstances.
“If they’re not sure, the best thing to do is have the child checked out,” he said.
SOURCE: Clinical Pediatrics, online December 9, 2013.