There’s no stopping a baby who’s learned to crawl, and the speed and distance covered only increases as s/he learns to walk. Baby safety gates work as ideal ways to define baby’s realm of exploration but the extent of their safety depends on how safely they are used.
A new study covering 20 years of baby safety gates highlights the importance of using the the right gate for the right situation. Constant supervision, regardless of gate style, is of the utmost importance.
The study, led by Dr. Lara McKenzie, analyzed data collected by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) between 1990 and 2010. During that time:
- 37,673 children in the United States received emergency-department treatment for injuries associated with baby safety gates
- 1,794 cases was the average number of injuries per year
- 5 is the average number of injuries per day
- 3.9 children of every 100,000 were treated in 1990
- 12.5 per every 100,000 were treated in 2010
- 61% of the children treated were boys
- 60.4% were children of both gender younger than 2 years old
- Children younger than 2 were most often injured in falls down stairs after their baby gate collapsed or was left open
- Some stair-related falls resulted in traumatic brain injuries
- Children between 2 and 6 were most often injured by the gate itself: 55.4% sustained open wounds; 24.2% sustained soft-tissue injury
These aren’t the only injuries associated with baby safety gates. Consumer Reports estimates half of all gate-related injuries are sustained by adults who fall or trip while trying to step over a closed baby gate. Children tall enough to try to step over or jump a gate are subject to injury, too.
Two Styles, Two Purposes
Baby gates come in two basic styles: hardware-mounted and pressure-mounted. Each one is better suited to certain situations than the other.
- Hardware-Mounted Gates: These gates are bolted or screwed directly into the framework of the wall or doorway. They are the safest gates to use at the top of stairs - indoors or out - as they are less likely to collapse if a child leans too heavily against them.
- Pressure-Mounted Gates: These gates stay in place by exerting pressure against a doorway or two walls. They can pop out of place if enough pressure is exerted against them, making them a poor choice for use at the top of a stairway. They are perfectly fine for use at the bottom of the stairs. Pressure-mounted gates are portable so they can be used away from home.
McKenzie is an investigator for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Center for Injury Research and Policy in Columbus, Ohio.