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More than 9000 USA children are injured using infant walkers every year

19 September 2018

"What we set out to do was give a nice summary of what's happened over the last 25 years to this source of injury to young kids, and specifically to look at the effect of the 2010 change that converted the safety standards of walkers from a voluntary standard to a mandatory standard", said Smith, the director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

"Using data on emergency department visits for children under 15 months from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, they found 230,676 infant walker injuries from 1990-2014", says an excerpt of the study from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which publishes Pediatrics journal.

More than 90% of incidents led to head and neck injuries and the most common cause of injury - 74.1% - was falling down stairs.

Additionally, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported there were eight child deaths associated with baby walkers from 2004 to 2008.

More than 9,000 USA children are injured using infant walkers. The American Academy of Pediatrics has called for a ban in the United States but, so far, the devices are still legal.

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"Infant walkers can give parents a false sense of security".

Smith told NPR that "despite this great success, there are still 2,000 children a year being treated for injuries, many of them serious injuries, in emergency departments".

Skull fractures, concussions and broken bones are among the injuries caused by infant walkers that doctors say they see in emergency rooms.

Ultimately, Smith said, "baby walkers provide no substantial benefit to children and pose significant injury risk". Other countries, such as Canada, have a complete ban on the sale and manufacture of baby walkers. Although injuries from falls decreased, the study found that other causes of injury increased slightly (2.3%). But by 2010 the CPSC stepped in to give the safety standards of walkers a reboot, demanding that companies implement rigorous standards when it came to manufacturing.

Though the majority of walker-related injuries are stair-related, walkers also can be hazardous because they give infants easy access to risky things "that they might not otherwise be able to reach", researchers wrote in the study. The mandatory safety standard also made it easier for the CPSC to stop non-complying infant walkers at entry points to the USA before they entered the marketplace (all 10 infant walkers recalled between 2001 and 2010 were imported products). Almost three-quarters were hurt after falling down the stairs.

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"They're really not safe", she told NPR, adding that some parents put their children in walkers to keep them occupied while mom and dad are doing something else. "We actually still do see these injuries in pediatric emergency". Instead, they have different activities within the baby's reach.

"Infant walkers give quick mobility (up to 4 feet per second) to young children before they are developmentally ready". "Parents bought the myth that if they watched their children carefully they wouldn't get into trouble", he said. "Because children in infant walkers can travel at speeds up to 1 m/second, adults have little time to react to unsafe situations", the authors wrote.

But many families still buy infant walkers, despite the warnings, and some families hand them down from generation to generation, the authors of the Pediatrics study write.

Nearly three-quarters of the injuries were caused by children in walkers falling down the stairs. But studies have shown that they might slow motor development, Rose says. "There are safer alternatives, such as stationary activity centers that spin, rock and bounce, but do not have wheels, and good old-fashioned belly time, where a child is placed on their belly on the floor and allowed to learn to gradually push themselves up, then crawl and eventually walk".

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More than 9000 USA children are injured using infant walkers every year