Less than 1% of all deaths in children in South Africa are attributable to falling. But it is still a danger that cannot be dismissed lightly, especially if you live in a house with stairs or in an apartment building.
As young children are naturally curious and want to explore their surroundings, their potential to suffer from a damaging fall is greatly increased.
Some facts about falls:
- Household furniture such as lounges, beds, chairs, change tables, cots and prams are all common places from which a child might fall.
- Children between the ages of 2 and 4 are more likely to fall.
- Summer is the season where more falls are likely to occur as people are more inclined to leave windows and balcony doors open to let in some fresh air.
- Head injuries and external injuries are common in children who fall from a window or balcony.
Preventing falls from windows and balconies: The SABS have put several regulations in place to protect people from falls.
- Areas like balconies, flat roofs and anywhere that is more than one metre above another level must have some form of protection. The most common form of protection in these circumstances will be balustrades, parapet walls, or some sort of railing.
- These must be at least 1m in height and must not have any opening bigger or wider than 10cm, and must consist of at least a handrail and one other rail midway between the handrail and the floor.
These regulations have been put in place to protect little bodies from crawling through or climbing over railings, or getting stuck in them.
- All windows above the ground floor should not to be opened more than 10 cm.
- All windows above the ground floor should also have latches/locks/guards fitted to ensure that the window cannot be opened more than 10 cm.
- Be aware that fly screens and burglar bars are not going to prevent a child from falling from a window.
- Keep all furniture, including beds, away from windows to prevent a child from climbing on them to gain access to windows.
- Children should be taught to play away from windows and be supervised at all times.
- All balustrades or railings should be at least 1m high.
- The balustrades should have vertical bars that are no more than 10cm (100mm) apart and they should not have horizontal parts that would allow a child to climb on to them.
- Move pot plants, furniture and other climbable objects away from the edge of the balcony.
- Be aware of any furniture that may be light enough for the child to drag towards the edge of the balcony.
- Children must be supervised around balconies.
- Doors to balconies should be kept closed to prevent children gaining access to them.
Emergency first-aid and treatment for falls
If your child has accidentally fallen from a window or balcony, take them to the hospital’s emergency room straight away.
However, if your child is not conscious, check for breathing and pulse, avoid moving the neck, in case of a break, and call 10111 immediately.
Unfortunately, sometimes falls can be fatal, especially if they sustain a major head injury, which is why taking preventive steps is so important.