Each year in the United States, more than 3,000 children under the age of 5 are injured in falls from windows. Rajashree Koppolu, CPNP, a nurse practitioner with the pediatric general surgery and trauma team at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, has treated many children who have fallen from windows.
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Koppolu believes in educating parents, families and the community about the danger of open windows. She also recentlyauthored a paper on the role of health policy with respect to window fall prevention. Koppolu wrote, “Pediatric health providers have an important role in increasing public awareness that falls from windows are preventable.”
She is available to the media to discuss why window falls occur and also to share tips on prevention.
Q: When do most window falls occur?
“More children fall from windows during the summer months when families open windows to cool off,” Koppolu said. “Sometimes, children accidentally fall through open windows; other times, children lean on screens that are not strong enough to hold their weight. Screens are designed to keep bugs out, but not keep children in. As we approach the summer months, we want to make sure parents are aware of the risks from open windows and how they can be prevented.”
Q: How serious are the injuries from window falls?
“It depends on the age of the child, the height of the window and the type of surface they fall onto. The injuries we see range from bone fractures to severe cranial, chest and abdominal injuries, and in a minority of cases, death. Most of the falls occur with children ages 1 to 4, when they are more curious and mobile and are exploring their surroundings. That’s when they have the ability to climb up on furniture and open windows, but lack the judgment to know the consequences if they get too near an open window.”
Q: What can parents and caregivers do to prevent window falls?
“In addition to actively supervising young children, parents and caregivers should not open windows more than 4 inches. Screen or no screen, that’s enough space for a child to crawl up and fall through a window. Ideally, it is best to place furniture, such as chairs, cribs, beds or a changing table away from the window edge. When space is limited and this is not possible, consider installing window stops or window guards to prevent falling injuries. There are a variety on the market that can be purchased and easily installed. It’s important that the guards have quick-release mechanisms to allow an adult to open the window in the event of a fire. All windows should be locked securely when not being used.”
Q: How are you educating parents about the risks from such falls?
“Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford is actively engaged in an education campaign to inform parents and caregivers about the risks of open windows. Staff members participate in injury-prevention conferences. The hospital also sponsored several billboards on local highways warning about the dangers associated with open windows and promoting window guards for family homes. Our message is ‘Kids Can’t Fly.’ My recent paper urges health-care providers to advocate for legislation to prevent window falls. Such legislation would be a powerful tool in protecting thousands of children from severe injuries after falling from unguarded windows.”
Rajashree Koppolu is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and works in the Department of Pediatric Surgery. She authored a paper on the importance of legislation directed at window fall prevention that appeared in the most recent issue of the Journal of Pediatric Health Care (Pediatric Falls from Windows: A Health Policy Model for Prevention).