Open windows can bring a breath of fresh air to homes in the summer months, but local health and safety officials are cautioning parents to beware of dangers they present to children.
On Thursday, a 3-year-old boy suffered substantial injuries when he pushed out the screen of a second-story window and landed face-first on a concrete driveway in Bethany, Ore.
Nationwide, about 5,200 children age 17 or younger fall out of windows every year, said Sandy Nipper, child safety program coordinator for Legacy Health. Most are 4 years old or younger. Injuries range from scratches and bruises to broken bones, spinal and brain injuries, to severe trauma and death, she said.
PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center treated 13 children for falling out of windows in 2011 and six children so far this year, according to hospital spokesman Ken Cole.
In the most recent local case, a 3-year-old boy fell from a second-floor window at One Lake Place Condominiums on July 28. The boy, whose name was not released, fell approximately 15 feet from an open window into some bark dust at the Northeast 121st Avenue complex. He was conscious after the fall, but apparently had multiple fractures to his arms and legs, said Kevin Stromberg, a spokesman for the Vancouver Fire Department.
Vancouver fire Capt. Scott Willis said his department responds to such calls a few times each year. He thinks prevention comes first, with parents needing to recognize that some children will be curious about open windows and might not understand the consequences of falling out of one.
Nipper at Legacy said children are hard-wired to explore and are great problem-solvers.
"There's a strong magnetism that exists between children and windows," she said. "It's their window into the world, especially for the under-5 crowd."
Parents can take a few steps without buying anything, she said. Those steps include keeping windows closed and locked when not in use and keeping things that can be climbed on away from windows.
It always helps to watch children near open windows, Bergstrom at PeaceHealth said, adding that screens aren't going to prevent a child from falling out.
"People think of screens as keeping in their kids," but they're designed to be removed easily, she said.
"Screens keep bugs out; they don't keep kids in," Nipper at Legacy said.
The best thing to do, according to Bergstrom and Willis, is to get commercial window locks that limit how far a window can be opened.
If windows are secured with window stops so they don't open more than four inches, it will keep children from falling out, Nipper said. She hopes that thinking about window safety will eventually become second nature for parents preparing for a new baby, much like buying electric outlet covers.
"No parent can prevent 100 percent of injuries to children 100 percent of the time. It's just not doable," Nipper said. "There is a lot we can all do to prevent the numbers of and severity of injuries our children sustain."
To learn more about window safety, Nipper says, people can visit the safety store at Randall Children's Hospital at Legacy Emanuel, 501 N. Graham St. in Portland, from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday. The store arranges appointments for individuals or groups at 503-413-4600.