We're all familiar with baby and infant walkers – those wheeled contraptions that let babies roll around using their legs before they're able to walk. If you're reading this, you probably used one yourself when you were little, or maybe one of your kids did. However, the authors of a recent study urge anyone that still has baby walkers to discontinue using them.
The study, published September 13 in the journal Pediatrics, found that more than 9,000 children in the United States are injured each year while using infant walkers. Although the annual number of injuries has dropped dramatically in recent years, the authors of the study believe it's still too high.
About five kids a day end up in the emergency room with injuries from baby walkers, usually from falling down the stairs and hurting their necks or heads. Children can also suffer what's called proximity-related injuries, such as pulling on or touching a dangerous object they were able to reach while in the walker. These injuries can be serious, as the authors of the study write, “Infant walker-related injuries can be severe and can include skull fracture, brain injury, burns, poisoning, and drowning.”
Pediatricians calling for ban (again)
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has been warning about the dangers of baby walkers for decades, they've remained legal in the United States. On the other hand, Canada banned the use of infant walkers in 2004.
United States manufacturers added voluntary safety features in the late 1990s, the primary change making the walkers wider than standard 36-inch-wide doorway openings and features to prevent walkers from falling down stairs. Then, in 2010, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) implemented mandatory safety rules that banned non-conforming infant walkers from being imported and sold in the United States.
Current study and findings
The last formal study about baby walker safety was performed 10 years ago and the authors of the study wanted to update the data to make future recommendations. "What we set out to do was give a nice summary of what's happened over the last 25 years to this source of injury to young kids, and specifically to look at the effect of the 2010 change that converted the safety standards of walkers from a voluntary standard to a mandatory standard," said Dr. Gary Smith, the director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Researchers examined CPSC data on emergency room visits for children under 15 months old. Their analysis showed that, between 1990 and 2014, 230,676 kids were taken to the hospital with baby-walker-related injuries:
- 74% of injuries resulted from falling down stairs
- 14% happened when the walker flipped over, and the baby fell out
- Less than 3% of injuries occurred when the child came into contact with a hot object or other dangerous object they wouldn't otherwise have been able to reach
- Nearly 5% of children suffered injuries serious enough to require admission to the hospital
- 98% of all injuries occurred at home
These injuries mostly involved the neck and head, with things like bone breaks or concussions. Some children suffered burns or other injuries.
There is good news
One piece of positive news is that the annual number of injuries from infant walkers has dramatically decreased during the period of research – from 20,650 in 1990 to 2,001 in 2014. The authors attribute this drop to the safety measures implemented in the 1990s, as well as advocacy efforts to ban baby walkers.
And, data showed that injuries dropped 23% in the four years after federal safety standards were implemented in 2010.
Dr. Gary Smith, the study’s senior author, reminded parents and guardians, “However, it is important for families to understand that these products are still causing serious injuries to young children and should not be used.” Smith believes their research backs up the AAP's call for a ban of both the sale and manufacture of infant walkers in the United States.
If your child was injured in a baby walker-related accident, talk to the injury lawyers at Crandall & Pera Law. We can talk to you about your little one's injury and your family's options. Contact us today – we can help. Please call 877-686-8879, or fill out our contact form to schedule a no-obligation consultation. We maintain offices in Ohio and Kentucky for your convenience.