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Stairs among leading causes of injury, death for kids

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SALT LAKE CITY -- New research shows tens of thousands of kids are landing in the emergency room after falling down stairs.

Every six minutes, a child falls down stairs somewhere in the U.S., experts say. Research shows some of those accidents happen while the parent is holding the child.

Over 90,000 kids under the age of 5 end up in emergency rooms because of stair-related falls every year. Doctors treat nearly 90 percent of those kids for head injuries. The Utah Health Department says falls are the third leading cause of injury death in Utah, and in 2009, 730 children visited the emergency room for staircase injuries.

"That actually is a very low number of incidents occurring because you don't see every child that falls on the stairs," said Janet Brooks of Primary Children's Medical Center. "If you multiply that several times you'd, probably have a more accurate number of children falling."

How to prevent staricase-related injuries
  • Assist small children in walking down stairs
  • Have proper lighting and adequate handrails
  • Install wall-mounted gates at the top and bottom
  • Remove objects and toys from stairs
  • Wipe spills off stairs without carpet

The ten-year study, published online in the March issue of the journal "Pediatrics," shows that more than 87 percent were young children walking down the stairs unassisted, 16 percent were babies under the age of 1 and using walkers, and more than 24 percent fell while being carried down the stairs.

"Parents carrying children up and down the stairs is one of the leading causes of falls," Brooks said. "And sometimes they're the most devastating as far as injuries, because you have two victims."

The study did show an 11 percent decline in staircase injuries during the study period, but Brooks said the statistics are a good safety reminder.

We have some work to do. It will require attention from all of us," Brooks said. Safety experts also recommend checking to make sure your staircase is built to code because while it might look normal to the untrained eye, if it is faulty the stair construction can lead to injury and death.

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