Beware of the stairs! Home safety in the spotlight

Stair-related injuries are still a cause for concern – but there are things parents can do to minimize the risk


Research from the USA has shown that stair-related injuries among children under 5 are still a cause for concern.


The study by, the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, revealed that from 1999 to 2008 more than 93,000 under 5s were treated in hospital emergency departments (the US equivalent of A&E) for stair-related injuries.

However, the study, just released online and due to appear in the April issue of Pediatrics, acknowledged a decrease in the number of stair-related injuries each year.

“While we are pleased to see a declining trend in the number of stair related injuries, stairs continue to be a common source of injury among young children,” said the study’s senior author, Gary Smith. “Through a combination of educating parents, use of stair gates, and modifying building codes to make stairs safer, we can prevent these types of injuries,” he added.

A baby under 12 months is more likely than an older child to suffer an injury while being carried down the stairs. In fact, a quarter of injuries to babies occurred while they were being carried, and they were over three times more likely to be treated in hospital for their injuries.

The study found that among all children, soft tissue injuries (sprains, muscle strain, swelling and bruising) were the most common type of injury, followed by lacerations and puncture wounds (cuts and grazes). The head and neck areas coped most injuries.

Tips to help prevent stair-related injuries:

  • Keep stairs free of clutter and in good repair
  • Install a handrail, if you don’t already have one
  • Use stair gates at both the top and bottom of stairs
  • Remember that while stair gates are important and effective, they are not a substitute for adult supervision
  • Avoid carrying a child on the stairs

When you need to carry a child on the stairs:

  • Do not carry other items at the same time
  • Keep one hand on the handrail to steady yourself
  • Never use a buggy on the stairs

When a child beings to use the stairs on their own teach them:

  • To always have a free hand to hold onto the handrail
  • To ask a grown-up for help if they want to take something up or down stairs
  • To keep toys off the stairs
  • The stairs are not for playing or jumping on

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