Death of child who fell from window prompts warning from B.C. hospital
VANCOUVER -- As the days start getting warmer, many people will leave windows and balcony doors open to let in some fresh air.
But BC Children's Hospital is warning that can pose a serious risk to young kids if left unattended—and has already resulted in the death of a child this year.
The hospital says it has treated at least eight children this year who have fallen from windows or balconies, including one who died. The BC Coroners Service said it is investigating the death of a child in Burnaby from a "fall-related death" that took place on May 29.
Dr. Ash Singhal, pediatric neurosurgeon at BC Children's, says most of the injuries took place over the last few months, and some of them have resulted in severe brain, spine and internal organ injuries.
"As we start to see the weather get better and better, like this coming weekend, we often see a cluster of more and more of these injuries," he said.
Children under six are especially vulnerable, Singhal says, because they love to climb, are often curious and don't realize when they might be putting themselves at risk.
"As the infant starts to toddle around the house, they can often learn to climb even before they're taking their independent steps," he said. "So the measures that need to be taken often need to be taken before a child is even walking."
Those measures, he says, include careful supervision, ensuring there's nothing to climb on near a window or balcony, and installing guards, latches or notches to prevent windows from opening excessively.
Singhal says they usually recommend windows not open more than four inches or 10 centimetres, which applies to sliding windows and those that move upwards.
"There's a lot of windows these days that have screens on them," he said. "The important thing to remember about screens is that screens keep bugs out. They don't keep children in."
Just a little bit of weight can cause a screen to pop, he says, and they can give people a false sense of security.
"But in fact, nothing really beats those latches or those regulators that prevent a window from opening more than 10 centimetres," he said.
If a child falls from a height of five feet or higher and has lost consciousness or is vomiting, the hospital says this could be the result of a head injury. Families should call 911 immediately so the child can be checked out by medical professionals.
The main injuries seen in children who fall from windows or balconies are head injuries and fractures to shoulders and upper arms, according to the hospital.
More than 90 per cent of these falls involve children under six years old, with the majority taking place at home between April and September when the weather is warmer.
Fourteen children aged zero to 16 were treated in the emergency department at BC Children's for falls from high elevations, like balconies and windows, in 2019.