We worry about our kids falling out of trees, chasing a ball into the street or not wearing a helmet while biking. The bathtub is usually not thought of as a hazard zone. But a study published today in the journal Pediatrics shows that slips and falls in the bathtub cause more than 43,000 injuries to children each year in the United States.
Burns from scalding water and drowning can certainly occur in the bathtub, but more than 80% of bathtub injuries involving children are due to slips, trips and falls. The most frequently injured body part is the face, followed by the head or neck. And more than half of the cases involved children age 4 and younger. (Age 2 appears to be the peak age of injuries). Young children are more likely to injure their heads in a bathtub fall because their center of gravity is higher and they have less arm strength to break falls.
The author of the study, Dr. Gary A. Smith from Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, suggests that injuries could be dramatically reduced if people use nonslip mats or coatings in bathtubs and showers. But he adds that bathtub safety products should be reevaluated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to increase the slip-resistance requirements. The current method for evaluating bath safety products is "arbitrary" and "clearly flawed," the report said.
Other ways to increase safety include installing handholds, shatterproof enclosures, cushioned or curved tub edges and/or rounded or recessed fittings. And, of course, young children should be supervised by an adult at all times while in the tub.
Photo credit: Robert M. Stenhouse / Associated Press