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Increase in number of kids falling from open windows

Oishei Children's Hospital reached out to 2 On Your Side to highlight a disturbing new trend: An increasing number of kids ending up in the hospital with injuries after falling out of open windows.
Credit: Lampa, Emily

BUFFALO, N.Y. — It's painful to just imagine a little kid falling out of a window and getting hurt. But it's happening more often in Western New York than we'd like to believe.

"It's definitely a problem that we need everyone to be aware of," says Dr. Kathryn Bass, Medical Director for Trauma at Oishei Children's Hospital.

It's is something that happens more often this time of year, with more people opening their windows as the temperatures heat up.

According to the 2015, Safe Kids Worldwide, Report to the Nation: Protecting Children in Your Home about eight children under age 5 die each year from falling out a window, and more than 3,300 are injured seriously enough to go to the hospital.

But the doctors at Oishei's reached out to 2 On Your Side after they noticed this happening way too often.

Dr. Bass says 15 kids were injured this way and treated at Oishei over the past 18 months.

We asked to look at their numbers, and they do show an upward trend over the past few years:

2015: 1 case
2016: 4 cases
2017: 9 cases
2018 (to present): 3 cases

We're told none of the incidents were fatal.

"This is super dangerous," said Dr. Bass. "The children that are affected are under 5 years of age, so they're toddlers. And the anatomy of a toddler is head heavy. So once they get going out of a window, they're head first. And so, head injuries are a very serious problem."

Since this is typically a warm weather problem, those cases are often concentrated over a shorter period of time. For example; of the three cases this year, one happened in May, and the other two in the past two weeks.

"Everyone wants to open the windows and let the fresh air in which is wonderful," added Dr. Bass, "but we have to be really really on top of toddlers."

Since it's difficult to pinpoint a reason for the increase, Dr. Bass admits they're focused on trying to educate the public on prevention, "Look at your home. Look at how you have the furniture positioned. Make sure that there's not easy access to the window, and make sure your windows are restricted and or barred."

Child safety bars are like baby gates for windows. Some newer windows have safety features built in that can keep windows from opening no more than a few inches.

Safety experts recommend an opening less than four inches. But Dr. Bass says you should really look at your kid's head size. If their head can get through the opening, it's a good bet the rest of their body can, too.

If you have older windows, there is hardware you can purchase and install to keep the window from opening too much. These window guards make it possible for an adult to open the window all the way in case of an emergency.

Dr. Bass says parents should not only be concerned with windows above the first floor, "A fall from a height is going to affect the child based on how large the child is. So, a fall three times the child's height can have a serious impact. So if you think about it, a first floor window could be three times the height of a child. So, we do have to be careful of all levels of windows."

The National Safety Council website states you should never rely on window screens to protect your children from falling out of windows.