Baby gates are one of the most commonly used safety devices in households with young children. However, the results of a new study show that the rate of children injured by such gates is on the rise in the United States.
Nearly 1,800 children are treated in emergency rooms every year for injuries suffered after a mishap involving a baby gate, according to a press release from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, concerning the study.
In the study, researchers examined gate-related injuries for children under age 7 between 1990 and 2010. During that time, an estimated 37,673 children were seen in emergency departments after a baby gate-related accident, or an average of five children per day.
The injuries differed by age group, according to the study, which was recently published in the journal, Academic Pediatrics.
More than 60 percent of the injured were children under age 2 who were hurt after falling down stairs when gates collapsed or were left open, the study found. These children tended to suffer soft-tissue injuries, sprains and traumatic brain injuries.
Older children were more likely to get hurt while trying to climb the gate, resulting in cuts and scrapes.
Overall, the injury rate nearly quadrupled during the study period, increasing from 3.9 per 100,000 children in 1990 to 12.5 per 100,000 in 2010.
Parents Must Install the Correct Baby Gate
Due to the risk of falls, one of the biggest hazards in any home is the stairway. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 55 percent of traumatic brain injuries that occurred among children under age 14 between 2006 and 2010 were caused by falls.
This means that baby gates are essential for any homes with stairs. However, parents must install the proper kind of baby gate. The study’s authors recommend that parents:
- Always use hardware-mounted gates at the top of a stairway. Pressure-mounted gates can collapse much more easily when leaned or climbed upon. So, they should only be used at the bottom of stairs and between rooms.
- Install gates in homes with children between six months and 2 years old. Once the child has learned how to open the gate or climb over it, the gate should no longer be considered a reliable safety device. It should be removed. If removing the gate is not possible because other young children are in the house, parents should use a gate without notches or gaps that could provide footholds for climbing.
Know What to Look For When You Buy a Baby Gate
Purchasing a quality baby gate is just as important as knowing where and how it should be used. Even though researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital acknowledge that voluntary standards from the American Society for Testing and Materials have helped decrease gate-related hazards for children, there are still no federal safety standards for baby gates.
Consumer Reports recommends that parents and caregivers purchase gates that are certified by the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association. The JMPA seal on a baby gates means that it has met international voluntary safety standards for:
- Strength of components
- The size of openings to prevent body entrapment
- The integrity of the latch.
Although certification provides some assurance of safety, accidents can still happen. Children may be injured due to a flaw or defect in the baby gate despite parents’ best efforts to buy and install the right kind.
Over the years the Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled baby gates from several different manufacturers for design hazards that already injured or had the potential to injure someone else.
When there is a serious injury, there will be claims for both the child and the parents. Analysis of the liability and damages issues requires the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney.