They don’t call it a “high chair” for nothing. Like a tennis judge or life guard, the baby perches precariously atop a high and narrow piece of — usually wooden — furniture, making a food mess on the tray and, at times, reaching dangerously to the sides. So much could go wrong, and does. Every year, nearly 10,000 children in America are injured severely while using high chairs, according to a new study.
The number of injuries from high chairs rose by more than 22 percent between 2003 and 2010, investigators from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbia, Ohio, said on Monday. Approximately 9,400 such injuries are treated annually in emergency rooms throughout the country, with concussions the most common among them.
“We have more than 9,400 injuries a year,” investigator Gary Smith, a pediatrician at the hospital, said in a statement. “That’s a child every hour in this country that’s injured from association with a high chair.”
Three-year-old Harper Waggoner fell from her high chair while strapped into the seat and ready for lunch. As her mother Kelli whirled through the kitchen, there was a deafening thud. “I looked back and what she had done,” Waggoner told NBC News. “She had flipped over.” In a few seconds, Harper had kicked away from the kitchen island and tipped the high chair over, incurring a hairline fracture in her skull.
Smith said such falls represent “far and away, the most common mechanism of injury. Most falls cause brain injuries, such as concussions. Experts say parents most commonly neglect to strap babies and toddlers into the chairs, though some injuries, like Harper’s, occur anyway while strapped. “I never would have thought she could reach that island like that to push,” Kelli said.
Indeed, experts recommend strapping children securely into a high chair using the crotch strap particularly, investigator Tracy Mehan said in the statement. “The important thing is the crotch strap,” she said. “You want to make sure that this strap is here because it helps keep the child in the chair so they don’t slide out from underneath.”
Still, Smith and his colleagues say they have no idea why the injury rate is rising. "This was an 8-year study and over those eight years, the number of high chair related injuries among young children increased by over 20 percent," Smith said.
Experts recommend not only using proper restraints, to prevent the child from slipping beneath the tray, but keeping the baby within one’s field of vision — for the duration of feeding time.