Toddlers learn early that outside is where the fun is. The sounds of the outdoor world send them running to the window to investigate. If a window is open and there's nothing but a screen between the child and the outside, that child is in danger of falling through. Window locks and guards are a good choice to protect a child from becoming one of the thousands of children injured each year in accidental falls from windows.
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The U.S. Product Safety Commission estimates 3700 children under the age of ten are injured annually in window falls. An average of nine children die from their injuries each year. Children between the ages of 2 and 5 are most likely to be victims of accidental falls.
Obviously, the greater the length of the fall, the more serious the injury. However, even a fall from a first-floor window can cause serious head trauma or broken bones.
Window locks keep windows from opening all the way. Locks can be positioned so a window opens only a few inches. This way, fresh air can come in and children can't fall out. It's important to make sure the opening is small enough a child can not squeeze his head through the opening.
There are myriad locks on the market and they are easy to install. Most have childproof mechanisms for shifting locks if it is necessary (and safe) to open a window all the way.
Locks vs. Guards
While locks allow windows to be partially opened, window guards allow windows to be opened all the way for maximum ventilation. The guards are made of metal bars placed across the window to prevent falls. In some municipalities, guards are mandated for all high-rise residential units where children live. Like locks, guards have a release mechanism so the guard can be removed if a window needs to be used as an emergency exit.
Guards can be purchased at most hardware stores and are easy to install.
Consider the other people in a household when deciding which window safety devices to use. Can you rely on your older children to always use the window locks when opening a window? If the answer is no, then a full window guard may be appropriate.
Never assume a child is safe near an open window just because it has a screen. Screens are not reliable barriers. Screens are flimsy, easy to tear and easy to break through. Open a window at your home and push against it with your hand. See how it gives? Now imagine a child that crashes into the screen with force while running across a room or jumping on a bed. If a screen is not properly fitted, a child just leaning against a screen can apply enough pressure to fall through.
Don't place furniture near a window, especially a child's bed or playpen. Even if you think your child is not able to climb out of a crib just yet, remember, there's always that first time.
Toddlers like to climb and they'll climb whatever furniture is handy. Even if the window is closed or just partially opened with a lock, the momentum of a falling child can shatter the glass and cause injuries. If a window is all the way open and a child loses balance while climbing a piece of furniture, the consequences can be tragic.
Landscaping the area below windows will help cushion a fall should a child tumble through a window. A child landing on a soft evergreen bush will likely have fewer injuries than a child landing on concrete or dirt.
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