Does anyone remember those baby walkers that had the wheels on the bottom?
You know, the kind that had a little seat with a tray and 4 wheels attached so babies could be mobile before they were able to walk on their own? Kids and parents alike LOVED these products: the baby was entertained and could propel around independently. Moms and Dads could get a few things done hands-free. However, these walkers rendered babies more mobile than their natural developmental capability, which ultimately led to a lot of injuries, namely, when babies propelled themselves down a FULL FLIGHT OF STEPS. Head injuries galore. In 1994 — the year that Ace of Base, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, and Salt-n-Pepa were in the Billboard top 100 not once but several times — the Consumer Products Safety Commission declared that babywalkers were responsible for more injuries than any other childhood product. Canada banned them in 2004. As a pediatric trainee in the late 1990s, it was drilled into us as part of our injury prevention anticipatory guidance for our clinic families to ask if these DANGEROUS products were in the home, and if so, to counsel strongly against them.
I’m on this stroll down memory lane because in this month’s journal Pediatrics a large database review of 20 years of nursery product related injuries was published, and it got my attention.
A group of investigators analyzed more than a million nursery product related injuries in children less than 3 seen in Emergency Departments over a 20 year period, from 1991-2011. Interestingly, the annual injury rate decreased from 1991-2003, largely due to a decline in babywalker/jumper injuries after significant public and medical education campaigns. We got our message out there and we were heard! But then, from 2003-2011 the injury rate increased again, resulting from baby carriers and strollers, crib mattresses, and continued use of jumpers and exercisers. Most of the injuries listed were head injuries due to self-precipitated fall.
What this research suggests is that we need to ramp up our injury prevention efforts again.
Raise awareness about risks of toys and other products that can potentially cause harm to young children. In my opinion, this is both easier and harder in 2017: easier in the sense that with the internet and digital media messages can “get around” faster than ever and breaking news regarding potential hazards can circulate rapidly. It’s harder now because of the myriad of toys and products on the market: it’s simply hard to keep up.
If you go to any search engine and type in “nursery product recalls” or “toy recalls,” there’s an endless results listing. If you’re any kind of normal parent of kids under 3 the last thing you have time to do is spend your time searching for product recalls. You can do your research on the front end and make sure you vet your products well before purchase, but once they’re home, well… they’re home.
If you’re reading this you might have seen that I’ve listed the lot numbers of two different medicines (with their dispensing devices) that have been recalled recently.
This is part of illness and injury prevention. I need to keep doing my part as a physician and disseminate injury prevention news as it arises. We ALL need to band together and be responsible about reporting problems when they arise so that when the next database analysis takes place ten or twenty years from now we can be proud of seeing the annual injury rates due to children’s toys and products decrease yet again and know that we played a part.
In related news this research has also inspired me to belt out my best rendition of “Push It,” the iconic 90s hit by Salt-n-Pepa.
“So all you fly mothers, get on out there and dance. Dance, I said!”
How did it go, you ask? Let’s just say my children think I’d better stick to belting out injury prevention blog entries.
Source: Gaw CE, Chounthirath T, Smith GA. Nursery Product-Related Injuries Treated in United States Emergency Departments. Pediatrics. 2016; 139(4):e20162503