June, 11 2012
Lurie Children’s blog promoting health, safety and wellness
When you enter medical school, you don’t know what you
really are getting yourself into. I
suppose those who have parents who are doctors have a better idea, but I came
from a family that wasn’t in the medical profession so was pretty clueless. I
remember I was a third year medical student in 1988 when I walked into
Children’s Memorial Hospital for the first time. I had just spent two years in
8 hour days of lecture, and I had virtually no patient contact during this time
(fortunately medical education has become more enlightened since then). Thus
when I walked into Children’s I was ready! In my short white coat, with my trusty stethoscope, I was ready to treat
disease, cure pestilence!
Imagine my surprise when my first patient—ever—was a child
who had fallen from a window! How could something like that even occur? Isn’t one’s home supposed to be safe? What I didn’t know then is that window falls
are one of the leading cause of serious injury in the summer months for young
children. Turns out window falls aren’t a modern ill either. Window falls have
been around since there were windows—there is a painting in Italy that shows
St. Francis bringing back a child to life after he fell from a window!
Since saints can be hard to come by these days, it is a good
thing we have learned some easy steps to keep our kids safe from window falls:
- Don’t open your window more than 4 inches. If you have
air conditioning, just put window stoppers or install sash stops (which are often built into newer
windows) to remind you and guests not to open the window too far. If you don’t
have air conditioning, install child releasable window guards. It is important
they are easily releasable in case of fire.
- Open from the top down if you can.
- Move furniture away from windows. This is critical but often overlooked—and it
is so easy to do.
- Don’t be falsely reassured because you have a screen in
your window. Most screens aren’t strong enough to prevent a fall; screens are
designed to keep bugs out, not kids in!
Dr. Karen Sheehan is a general pediatrician and a pediatric emergency medicine specialist. After taking care of kids who fell from windows, or were shot, or were hit by cars, it occurred to her that it would be better to prevent such injuries in the first place. She now focuses on prevention and maximizing a child’s health and well being. She is married and has a 13-year-old daughter.