Even during the fall, parents need to be mindful of open windows


Fluke accidents happen. Some accidents seen in the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Emergency Department at Stanford are more preventable than you may think. During warm fall weather in California, families may leave windows open to cool down or air out the house. Many are not aware of the danger of pediatric injuries attributable to falls from windows.

Daniel Imler, MD, assistant professor of pediatric emergency medicine and pediatric hospital medicine at Stanford University, treats more cases of injuries attributable to falls from windows than one may guess.

On average how many cases of this type of accident does the Packard emergency department at Stanford see?

Dr. Imler: Packard’s pediatric emergency department is one of the few hospitals in the Bay Area that is certified to see level one pediatric traumas (serious injuries and accidents that happen to children). We are equipped to provide comprehensive care to patients from their arrival through rehabilitation and have specialists in every area of pediatric medicine on call. As a level 1 trauma center we have cared for approximately 8 patients with similar injuries each year.

What types of injuries are common in pediatric patients who have been involved in such falls?

Dr. Imler: A variety of injuries can occur with falls; the most frequent being extremity fractures, traumatic brain injuries, and damage to the cervical spine. Unfortunately, some falls may also result in death.

What treatments are common?

Dr. Imler: These injuries range from relatively minor to serious problems that may affect a child long term. To diagnose children’s injuries we first perform a trauma survey, which may utilize x-rays or CT scans to determine the extent of injuries. Sometimes patients with stable injuries may be observed overnight in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, and other times surgery or casting are required for orthopedic or neurological care.

Many families are under the impression that window screens will prevent falls. Do you find this to be true?

Dr. Imler: Window screens only offer minimal help. Often they cannot prevent a child from falling out of a window.

What can parents do within their homes to prevent such an accident?

Dr. Imler: There are several important safety measures to child proof your house. Move furniture away from windows and prevent children from climbing over. Locking all closed doors and windows is a great preventative measure as well. If you do open a window safety locks can help keep the window open only 4 inches for safety. Some families choose to install windows that open from the top down on floors above the ground level.

Danielle McTaggart is a Child Life Specialist with the pediatric emergency department. Her role is to help patients cope through education and emotional support.

Discover more about Emergency Medicine or call (650) 723-5111.


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