If you’ve ever wondered exactly how much safer your home would be for small children by using safety devices such as stair gates and cabinet locks, we now have a precise number for you.
About 2,800 U.S. children die each year from preventable injuries in the home, and millions more are treated in emergency departments. In a study just released in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, we found that injuries to children at home dropped dramatically when homes had safety measures in place such as stairway gates, cabinet locks, electrical outlet covers, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, safe storage for knives and other sharp objects, and hot water heaters set below 120 degrees.
No previous study had actually quantified the benefits of reducing exposure to injury hazards in the home when such measures were installed and maintained by researchers.
The new study meticulously documented two groups of families with newborns, with one group having carefully installed and maintained safety devices in their homes. Over the course of two years – with the number of hazards significantly reduced – related injuries requiring medical attention were 70 percent lower for children in the group whose homes had such devices installed and maintained.
This is the interim report for the study, which has now been expanded to include groups of low-income, first-time mothers whose children are considered to be at greater risk.
The home environment is the most common location of injury for younger children. However, parents may not have the time, training, or resources to obtain and install the best safety products. Considering the millions of trips to the emergency room and doctors’ office visits each year for injuries in children, our data show that a tremendous amount of pain and suffering could be avoided and millions of dollars in healthcare costs saved if a standard set of home safety measures were implemented on a broad scale.
Kieran J. Phelan, MD, MSc, is a board certified general pediatrician, is an experienced injury epidemiologist and residential injury control researcher. He has been active in the fields of injury epidemiology and residential injury control for over 8 years.