Doctors seek ban on infant walkers as study reports thousands of injuries

Doctors seek ban on infant walkers as study reports thousands of injuries

Between 1990 and 2014 an estimated 230,676 children under 15 months old were treated for injuries related to infant walkers, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Over the years covered by the study, the number baby-walker injuries did decrease dramatically, dropping from 20,650 in 1990 to 2,001 in 2014.

In 2010, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission strengthened safety requirements on the manufacture and testing of infant walkers, such as installing brakes to prevent stair falls. "Therefore, we support the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics that baby walkers should not be sold or used".

Pediatricians have long warned against using baby walkers, and consumers groups joined them to call for a ban in 1992.

One of the authors of the study, Dr. Gary Smith, said he's had an interest in baby walker-related injuries since he began his medical training 30 years ago.

The number of injuries annually fell almost 23 percent during a four-year period after the Consumer Product Safety Commission established a federal mandatory safety standard on infant walkers in 2010, said the study.

"I have commonly heard the words from parents who brought their child to the emergency department after an injury in a baby walker, 'Doctor, I was standing right there, but she moved so fast that I did not have time to stop her.' These are good parents, who were carefully supervising their children and using the baby walker as intended", he said. "There's absolutely no reason these products should still be on the market". Canada banned baby walkers in 2004.

More than 90 percent of incidents involved head and neck injuries, while 74 percent were injured falling down the stairs while using an infant walker.

Eight children died from using baby walkers between 2004 and 2008, the study said, calling on officials to ban their manufacture and sale. 'We actually still do see these injuries in pediatric emergency.

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Despite improvements since standards became mandatory, Smith and his co-authors continue to see roughly 2,000 children a year treated in emergency rooms, often for serious injuries such as skull fractures. In fact, they may delay mental and motor development, he said. Walkers also allow children access to things they might not otherwise be able to reach, such as an oven door or toxic household substances, the researchers said. Some have drowned, and some have suffered burns after pulling boiling food off stoves, Rose says.

But Smith isn't blaming parents for their baby's injuries.

'Baby walkers give quick mobility - up to four feet per second - to young children before they are developmentally ready, ' Smith said in an email. He says numerous children were badly hurt. "But that was a myth".

Infant or baby walkers are designed for babies aged approximately five months to 15 months who have not yet developed the skills to walk independently, the authors noted in the study. "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. "Many families still use baby walkers, despite being aware of their potential dangers", he said. Stores stock a colorful selection of walkers decorated with an array of animals and Disney or Sesame Street characters.

"There are safer alternatives that young children enjoy", Smith said, "such as stationary activity centers that spin, rock, and bounce, but do not have wheels that give young children risky mobility".

It's not just infant walkers that cause injuries.

Baby walkers - which have been banned in Canada since 2004 - are still injuring thousands of children in the USA each year, according to a new study.

Ronnie Cohen is a Northern California journalist who frequently writes about health.

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