BC Children’s Hospital has treated six children who have fallen from windows or balconies so far this year. Last year, a total of 15 children were treated for these same types of falls.
The hospital says there is a critical need to raise awareness about this danger as we head into the warmer spring and summer months.
“I’ve had the terrifying experience of having my child fall out of a window in my house,” said Mike, whose four-year-old son survived a fall from a second-storey window in April. “Fortunately, he is recovering remarkably well. I feel like my family has been given a second chance so I want to help get the message out about how important it is to regularly childproof the windows and balconies of your home.”
“A child’s fall can be devastating for a family. We are urging parents and caregivers to take steps to keep kids safe near windows and on balconies,” said Dr. Genevieve Ernst, trauma medical director at BC Children’s Hospital. “Toddlers are especially vulnerable because they are curious, they love to climb and often don’t recognize when they are putting themselves at risk.”
Most falls from windows or balconies (66%) involve children aged six and under, with 85% occurring between April and September, and 77% occurring at home. The main types of injuries children sustain from these falls are head injuries and fractures to shoulders and upper arms.
“Each year as the temperatures get warmer, paramedics, tragically, see emergency calls for young children who have fallen from windows or balconies,” said Jodi Butterman, a paramedic specialist with BCEHS. “Small children are very capable of pushing open an unlocked window. A little bit of safeguarding work can prevent this from happening.”
Tips to prevent falls from windows and balconies:
- Don’t leave children unattended on balconies or decks.
- Move furniture and planters – or anything that can be climbed on – away from windows, balcony railings and balcony door handles. Lock balcony doors.
- Remember: window screens keep bugs out. They don’t keep children in.
- Install window guards on windows above the ground level. Fasten windows so that they cannot open more than 10 centimetres wide. Children can fit through spaces as small as 12 centimetres wide. Just make sure there’s a safety release in case of fire.
- Talk to your children about the dangers of opening or playing near windows, particularly on upper floors of the home or in a high-rise dwelling.
- If a child has fallen over five feet from a window or balcony and has lost consciousness or is vomiting, this could be the result of a head injury. Call 911 immediately and get them assessed by a health-care provider. Most head injuries require urgent medical attention and the Emergency Department is a good first step to seek treatment.