In the December 9 issue of Clinical Pediatrics, researchers announced that the number of pediatric emergency department visits associated with high chairs increased 22 percent from 2003 to 2010. Not surprisingly, 93 percent of these injuries occurred when children fell from the chairs. Approximately 9,400 children suffer such injuries every year—one per hour—and most injuries are associated with landing on wood or hard tile floors.
What can parents do to decrease the probability and severity of such injuries? One step is to make sure that the high chair has not broken or been recalled. Another is to make sure that the child is properly strapped in. And another is simply to keep an eye on the child. In most cases, such injuries—which range from serious brain injuries and fractures to simple cuts and scrapes—can be traced to children climbing or standing on the chairs.
While such preventive efforts can pay big dividends, they may not go far enough. Relying on parents and other caregivers to police their children’s high chair practices appears not to be effective. Instead we would do well to explore more systematic, fail-safe options.
No high chair, not even the top one on the market, is risk free. The number one danger associated with high chairs is clear: height. As any physicist knows, the kinetic energy with which an object—in this case, the body of a small child—strikes the ground is directly related to the height from which it falls. The greater the height, the greater the impact. By decreasing height, we can dramatically lower the severity of injuries that such falls produce. Simply put, it seems time to convert high chairs to low chairs.