At the Trauma Center, the majority of patients we see are injured as a result of a fall. Tripping and slipping may seem minor, but the injuries sustained from a ground level fall can be serious, including traumatic brain injuries, damage to organs and soft tissue and broken bones that can require intensive medical treatment and rehabilitation.
Falls are often seen as a concern as you get older, but unintentional falls are also the number one cause of non-fatal injury among children. Approximately 2.8 million children are treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries every year in the United States. For children under the age of 4, over 80% of fall-related injuries happen at home.
Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent falls, and many of the strategies to reduce falls for adults are also applicable for children. Fall prevention often falls into three categories: staying active, designing for safety and health awareness. If you are concerned that you or someone you care about may be at risk of a fall, there are steps that can be taken to reduce fall risks.
Tips for Reducing Adult Falls
- Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist about the medications you are taking, as some medications (or combinations of medications) can increase your risk of falling. Additionally, there may be vitamins or supplements they can recommend to improve bone, muscle and nerve health.
- Schedule an annual eye exam. Poor vision from wearing out-of-date prescriptions, or conditions like glaucoma or cataracts, can increase your risk of falling.
- Make your home safer by reducing potential fall risks – even small changes can make a big difference in safety. Check out our downloadable Home Safety Checklist on tips to use in your home.
- Look into exercise or exercise classes (such as tai chi) that can improve your balance and strength. Remember to talk to your healthcare provider about the best type of exercise for you.
- Take the online self-assessment for fall risk offered by the National Council on Aging and discuss the results with your health care provider. Remember, falls don’t have to be an inevitable part of getting older.
Tips for Reducing Pediatric Falls
Falls From Heights
For windows above ground level, install a window guard or step that does not allow it to open more than four inches. Window screens are not designed to prevent falls, so ensure the opening is too small for a child to pass through.
It is important to always supervise children on porches and balconies, but you also want to check that the railings are secure, and make sure a child cannot pass through or under them. Additionally, move away any furniture that could assist a child in trying to climb over a railing.
Falls From Furniture
Place infant carriers on the floor. Portable car seats placed on tables, couches, counters or beds are at risk of falling or tipping over and could cause injury. Additionally, if a carrier is placed on a soft surface, the recline angle can change drastically and obstruct a baby’s ability to breath.
Use the preinstalled safety straps on changing tables and high chairs, and never leave a child unattended on either one.
Falls From Stairs
Use approved safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs and attach them to the wall, if possible. When using safety gates, remember to read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels to make sure you have the right gate for your needs. Not all gates are safe for use at the top of stairs.
Skip the baby walker, especially if you have stairs in the house. Baby walkers are associated with an increased risk of falls, burns, drownings and poisonings, and are even illegal in Canada.
Falls From Shopping Carts
Children should ride inside, and be buckled securely into, shopping carts. Riding on the exterior of a cart can cause it to tip over or be difficult to safely push. Only allow a responsible adult to push the cart.
For further reduce the risk of falls, consider an alternative to a shopping cart, such as a baby carrier or sling, having your child walk with you, or taking advantage of curbside pick up.
The Fall Prevention Clinic is a service provided by UVM Medical Center's Elder Care Services, Rehabilitation Therapies and Community Health Improvement. It is an outpatient clinic that provides comprehensive fall risk assessments and treatment for patients who have fallen or who are at risk for falling.
Appointments can be requested by calling (802) 847-1902 or by asking your physician for a referral.
The clinic is located at the Rehabilitation Outpatient Center on the ground floor of the Fanny Allen Campus of UVM Medical Center.