Window design puts kids at more risk for falls



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Posted on July 24, 2010 at 11:14 AM

Seven-year-old Maya Riedel was at a friend's house, waving to her playmate from a second story window. Suddenly the screen gave way and she tumbled out. She recalls the rescue.

"They picked me up on the board and put me on a wheel thing and rolled me inside the ambulance."

As she was being rushed to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, her mother got the call.

"I really went into shock at that moment. it was horrible," said mom, Nina Bingham.

Maya was fortunate. Her injuries weren't severe.

But the emergency room staff told her mother she wasn't alone.

"They said you know, there's some other children here that have fallen through windows today. And that was what really hit me. This was not an isolated event," said Nina.

Dr. Brian Johnston, Chief of Pediatrics at Harborview, just completed a study of window falls. It showed even though kids were well supervised, falls were linked to window designs.

"Those included having a deeper sill, probably because children can climb up onto those windows," he said. "Having a horizontal slider window, rather than a window that opens vertically, maybe because those are easier for young children to open themselves."

Maya fell from a window with both those features.

Screens were a big culprit too, because they provide a false sense of security.

Installing window guards and moving furniture away can help. But Dr. Johnston believes screen designs could be improved.

"I think it's possible to imagine window screens that are easily removed in the event of an emergency or for cleaning, but that actually would withstand some pressure if inadvertently placed there by a toddler. So I think manufacturers, if they were creative, could come up with something," he said.

Nina agrees, for the kids' sake, and the parents.

"No parent should ever have to get a call like that," she said.

When the researchers looked at why more kids fall from the second or third story they found windows on the ground floor are often locked, to prevent crime.

Nearly 5,000 children are hurt in window falls every year in the U.S.