Babies and children * First aid

Bath-time falls danger to babies

Falls more common than scalds and drownings Falls more common than scalds and drownings

Most parents know to check the temperature of the water before putting their child in the bath, and would never dream of leaving the child unattended for fear of mishap.

But a new U.S. study has found that more than 80% of bath time injuries are caused by slips, trips and falls. Scarily, most occur when the parent is present.

"Unfortunately, adult supervision isn't enough to prevent these injuries. They happen so quickly that a parent simply can't react quickly enough to prevent them," said Dr. Gary Smith from the Nationwide Children's Hospital Centre for Injury Research in Ohio.

Each year in the US more than 43,000 children under the age of 18 end up in hospital with injuries due to bath time falls, a figure unchanged for more than fifteen years. This suggests parents are unaware of the risks to children of falls in the bath or shower, say researchers. It is safe to assume that a similar problem exists here in the UK too.

The results of the study revealed that more than half of the falls occur in children under the age of 5. Laceration was the most common injury, occurring in 60% of hospital admissions.

The face was injured most often (48%), followed by the head and neck (15%).

"That is because young children, the ones most typically injured in bathtubs and showers, tend to topple forward. They have a high centre of gravity, and they tend to strike their head and their face, and that ends up with injuries such as lacerations," said Dr. Smith.

"Environmental changes, such as making surfaces more slip-resistant, are the best methods to prevent bathtub and shower-related injuries," he added.

In addition to using slip resistant mats both inside and outside the bath, the researchers also recommended installing bath rails and shatterproof shower enclosures. The bathroom should also be checked for any surfaces or objects with sharp edges. Ideally these should be removed, or covered during bath time.

This article was published on Tue 14 July 2009

Image © Adam Borkowski -

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