UW News

July 18, 2013

Falling from windows is serious risk for small children

UW Health Sciences/ UW Medicine

Windows opened on a hot Seattle afternoon.

Windows ajar on a hot Seattle afternoon.

As the weather gets warmer, Harborview Medical Center reports a significant increase in the number of children needing treatment because they fell from an open window. Each year between 3,000 and 5,000 children in the United States, most of them toddlers, will experience a window fall.

Dr. Brian Johnston, chief of pediatrics at Harborview and a researcher with Harborview’s Injury Prevention and Research Center, said the hospital receives about 50 pediatric window fall patients annually. About one-fourth of these children experience a serious head injury or permanent disability as a result of the fall.

Most window falls are caused by children falling against a window screen. Screens are not designed to support a child’s weight, and when the child makes contact with the screen, the screen pops out. Many people are unaware that window falls present a serious risk for children, or they blame the accident on lack of parental supervision.

“People always want to blame the parents,” Johnston said, “but the truth is most of the parents were observing appropriate supervision at the time of the accident. They may not realize that screens won’t support their child’s weight, or the child may approach the window too quickly for the parents to react in time.”

To reduce the risk of window falls, Johnston recommends these easy safety tips:

  • Do not open windows more than four inches.
  • Place a guard or stop in the window.
  • Move furniture and boxes away from windows to discourage children from climbing on them to reach an open window.