Infant walkers: What parents should know about danger to babies

By  | 

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recognizes September as national Baby Safety Awareness Month, making now a good time for parents to take stock of toys or products they have in the home that might be unsafe.

Researchers say for one, infant walkers are still sending 2,000 babies a year to the emergency room, despite federal safety standards and years of warnings.

It's exciting for parents to watch their babies up on their feet, but infant walkers with wheels are toys that emergency room doctors and pediatricians have come to hate.

"Parents don't understand how quickly they can move. They can move up to 4 feet per second in a walker," Dr. Gary Smith said.

Smith studied injuries from infant walkers since new safety guidelines were adopted in 2010. Among other things, it strengthened the testing of baby walkers to see if they come to a stop when a wheel goes over a step.

During the study period, the number of injuries dropped dramatically, from 20,650 in 1990 to two 2,001 in 2014.

"It's still not enough," Smith said. "We need to eliminate the hazard. We need to make these products unavailable."

Researchers say some parents think the activity will help a baby strengthen his or her legs.

"That has actually been proven to be false," transitional research manager Tracy Mehan said. "Not only does it not help you walk more quickly, but it actually can delay your walking, because it's teaching the child to walk in a different way."

Instead of infant walkers, researchers suggest an ExerSaucer with an activity center.

"There's plenty of toys to keep the child entertained. It can spin, but it doesn't have wheels," Mehan explained.

Mehan cautions parents not to try do-it-yourself walkers, which have been featured on social media sites. Also, be wary of hand-me-down infant walkers.

Baby walkers are banned in Canada. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for a similar ban on the manufacture and sale of infant walkers in the U.S.

RESEARCH SUMMARY
INFANT WALKER WARNINGS REPORT #2671

BACKGROUND: According to the CDC, approximately 12,000 children and young adults, ages 1 to 19 years, die from unintentional injuries each year. Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injury for children. Each year about 100 children are killed and 254,000 are injured as a result of bicycle-related accidents. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4. Airway obstruction injury (suffocation) is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among infants under age 1. Each year, about 2,000 children ages 14 and under die as a result of a home injury. Unintentional home injury deaths to children are caused primarily by fire and burns, suffocation, drowning, firearms, falls, choking, and poisoning. (Source: https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=accident-statistics-90-P02853)

WALKERS: A DANGEROUS CHOICE: Baby walkers send thousands of children to hospitals every year. Infants can roll down the stairs, which often causes broken bones and severe head injuries, and they can get burned by reaching the stove top. It is now easier for a child to pull a tablecloth off a table and spill hot coffee, grab pot handles off the stove, and reach radiators, fireplaces, or space heaters. An infant can fall into a pool or bathtub while in a walker or even be poisoned by reaching and grabbing something off the counter. Most walker injuries happen while adults are watching because parents or caregivers simply cannot respond quickly enough. A child in a walker can move more than 3 feet in 1 second. Some alternate and safer options are stationary activity centers which look like walkers but have no wheels. They usually have seats that rotate, tip, and bounce. Play yards or playpens are great safety zones for children as they learn to sit, crawl, or walk. And, older children often enjoy sitting up in a high chair and playing with toys on the tray. (Source: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/Baby-Walkers-A-Dangerous-Choice.aspx)

CONSUMER PRODUCTS ARE TO BLAME: A report, looking at the products and activities associated with non-fatal traumatic brain injuries for children aged up to 19, in 66 U.S. hospitals' emergency departments, has revealed that floors, beds and American football are some of the greatest risks. The study shows that 72 percent of cases across all age groups were attributable to consumer products that are regulated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. "Structural designs, such as uneven flooring, often contribute to falls, which is the leading cause of traumatic brain injury in children," says lead author Dr. Bina Ali from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in the U.S. She continues, "In most cases, infants and children are safe in bed and when playing sports outside, but our study highlights some of the risks and the priorities in different age groups for preventing serious head injuries." The investigation provides an overall understanding of the contribution of consumer product-related traumatic brain injuries in children and adolescents who account for approximately one million non-fatal traumatic brain injury cases treated in emergency departments per year. In infants under a year, a quarter were caused by falling from beds, while floors were the second leading cause at 14 percent. (Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190729094545.htm)