Deaths of 2 B.C. children prompt window safety warning for parents
VANCOUVER -- As the weather heats up, health officials are warning parents about the dangers of open windows and balconies at home.
“Many children can climb before they can even walk,” says Dr. Ash Singhal, a pediatric neurosurgeon at B.C. Children’s Hospital.
Every summer, Singhal says, he treats a number of kids who’ve fallen from windows or balconies. This year, eight children have ended up at B.C. Children’s Hospital, and not all have survived.
“Sadly, I took care of two children who died from their injuries after falls,” says Singhal.
Last year, 14 children aged 16 and younger were treated at BC Children’s Emergency Department for falls from windows and balconies, according to the Provincial Health Services Authority. Eleven of those occurred during the summer months.
This week, a 14-month-old boy escaped serious injury after falling out of a second-storey window in Burnaby.
“It’s a high-stress call for us,” says Joanna Stefani, a B.C. Emergency Health Services paramedic. “Nobody wants to see a child injured.”
Ahead of the extremely high temperatures forecasted for the weekend, officials with B.C. Children’s Hospital and B.C. EHS are reminding parents and guardians of toddlers and young children that falls can be prevented with some simple tips. Furniture and anything that kids can climb should be kept away from windows and balcony railings.
Additionally, officials say bug screens should not be considered a safety measure because they’re often flimsy and easily dislodged.
Instead, for windows that swing outwards, safety latches should be installed to stop them from opening too wide.
“They’re available in virtually every hardware store in the province,” says Singhal. “It’s rare a latch would cost more than 10 to 20 dollars.”
Screw-on locks are a suitable option for sliding windows, safety experts say. They can be installed on most windows within seconds to allow for airflow while preventing a deadly fall.
“If a window can open more than 10 centimetres, a child’s head can get through it. If a child’s head can get through a window, so can their body,” says Singhal. He adds that because toddlers carry a larger proportion of weight in their heads, they often land head first, which can cause severe, long-lasting trauma.
If your child has fallen more than 1.5 metres and is unconscious or vomiting, it could be a sign of a head injury, according to the PHSA. Most head trauma requires immediate medical attention, says the health service provider, so it’s crucial 911 is called in a timely manner.
“Wait for EHS to arrive and we can assist with patient care and transfer,” says Stefani.