If your toddler falls from your window, will it necessarily die?

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It is that time of year again. Children falling out the window awareness week is every week in the spring and early summer. Here is a repost about this topic, still relevant, because kids still keep falling out the window.

No! A surprising number of toddlers who manage to get their way through a window opening to fall to the pavement below live. Something just over three thousand toddlers do this every year in the US.

Here in Minneapolis, we had our first reported case for the Spring Season of a toddler falling out of a window. The window had a screen in it but that did not stop the child, in Nordeast, from flying out the window after a bad bounce jumping on the bed. He fell three stories. He’ll live. He probably bounced off a few things on the way to the ground. This event reminded me to repost this item for those who live in the Northern Hemisphere and are starting to open their windows to let in the fresh Spring air and have not yet sealed off the windows to keep the Excessive Heat of Industrial Summer out.

Kids fall all the time. About 2,300,000 US children (under 14 years old) are treated at a hospital for a fall annually. Of these, a mere eighty die of the fall, though a much larger number are permanently injured or left in persistent vegetative state. Most, more than half, of these child-falls are accounted for by toddlers (age 5 and under).

Falling is patterned. Infants tend to fall from furniture, walkers, and stairs while toddlers tend to fall from windows. Well, the toddlers probably fall from furniture etc. more often, but we’re talking about morbid falls … falls in which there is an injury or a death. Kids older than toddlers tend to get injured from playground falls. It’s mostly toddlers and kids under 10 that do the falling, and of those who are injured or die in a fall two thirds are boys. But lets get back to the window falls, because ’tis the season.

Toddlers fall through windows for several reasons. First, parents or guardians are oblivious to windows as a safety issue, then the toddlers get curious about the windows, the latches, the sashes, and the outside. Adults underestimate the ability of toddlers to get a window open and they over-estimate the size of the hole a toddler has to squeeze through to get out. A toddler only needs five inches or so of gap to get through. Also, parents assume that a screen will stop a child from falling through the window, but this is rarely true. Screens are pretty good at stopping flies and mosquito’s, but not toddlers.

Close to two dozen kids fall through a window to their deaths each year in the US, roughly one third of them toddlers. This is a small number. It is worth nothing, however, that there is a temporal pattern to this; As weather warms, careless caregivers allow their toddlers access to unguarded windows and the toddlers (and some older children) start dropping onto the pavement. It starts in warmer areas of the country first, then spreads to cooler areas. Then, the CDC, CPSC, and other agencies issue press releases and local press start to take notice. Eventually, after several instances, one or two more spectacular cases hit the news. Perhaps a child falls five floors and toddles away from it unharmed in one place while a different toddler falls from the second floor and is left in a permanent coma in a different place. In any event, the word gets out that toddlers like to go through windows, that screens do not stop them, that they can work cranks and sashes and other devices if they persist, and the carnage then slows as people learn from the tragic experiences of others.

Windows are on the “top five” list of hidden domestic dangers to children, for two reasons. One is for the 3,700 injuries and 8 or 9 deaths from a fall through the window annually, the other is for the dozen or so annual deaths from strangulation from the noose you know of as the window-treatment cord.

Huxley has taken an interest in the windows. We have tall casement windows that he could easily squeeze through. The screen would not hold him. The windows are cranked shut with a removable crank and locked with large lever latches. He mastered the lever latches a long time ago but is probably not strong enough to work the crank. Yet. So, the windows are now closed and the crank has been moved to a safe location. I’m not telling where.

(Update: He still hasn’t found the crank yet but he can work all latches, dials, buttons, and locks without difficulty.)

Sources of information:

Here’s an example of the new discovering this danger:

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2 thoughts on “If your toddler falls from your window, will it necessarily die?

  1. Greg:

    Good luck keeping your child safe!

    It is a struggle.

    My two children are now 24 and 20, so are past the danger of falling out a window (I hope).

    I do remember the days of childproofing the house.

    They do grow up fast, so make sure you enjoy these years as much as possible.

    1. RickA: Keep an eye on them, I think there is a second peak of falling out windows at about that age!

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