Researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio estimate that hospital emergency rooms treat one child about every six minutes for a stair-related injury, reports the American Academy of Pediatrics. Many of the children are younger than a year old, with injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to limb fractures. Head and neck injuries are among the more serious injuries children suffer.
Wide balusters on staircases allow small children to fit through and fall. Some children get an arm, leg or their head stuck between railings. The balusters or spindles on stair rails should be no more than three and a half inches apart, according to National Health and Safety Standards Guidelines for Child Care and Early Education. If your child is younger than age two, the space between balusters should be narrower--less than two and three-eighths inches to prevent him from sliding his head through. For existing railings that can't be modified easily, install banister guards or rail nets.
Child Safety Gates
Installing child safety gates at the top and bottom of stairways can help protect your child from injury, points out AskDrSears. But a one-size-fits-all type of baby gate isn’t necessarily the safest choice. If you buy a pressure-mount gate, use it only at the bottom of the stairs. Pressure-mount gates can loosen with wear making them dangerous to install at the top of stairs. A hardware-mounted gate is more secure. When childproofing your home, look for a gate that is certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. JPMA certification guarantees the gate meets the safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
Clear, plastic banister guards that help protect young children from getting injured are easy to install. Banister guards keep little ones from putting their arms and legs through the openings in balusters and stair railings. Generally, guards come in a 15-foot roll and fit up to a height of 33 inches. Safety tips offered by Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt recommend placing guards or rail nets on all banisters and railings in your home, especially if your child’s head is small enough to fit through the spaces.
AskDrSears suggests using rail nets to prevent young children from squeezing through stair railings. The nets are made from durable polyester/nylon mesh and come in a standard size of 10 feet long, but can adjust to fit most railings. Cut the net to size to fit shorter railings or connect more than one rail net together for a railing that is longer than 10 feet. Fasten the nets with ties or eye bolts that screw into the railing.
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Safety Pitfalls--Stairs Are a Leading Cause of Injury for Small Children
- National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education: Steps and Stairs
- AskDrSears: How to Toddler-Proof Your Home--A Room-by-Room Guide
- Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt: Bathroom, Doors, Windows, Stairs and Furniture Safety
- JPMA: JPMA Certified Products