If you have young children, chances are you have baby gates placed strategically to stop your children from falling down stairs or entering unsafe areas of your home. You can’t watch your children every second and baby gates provide a useful safeguard.
However, a study published in the May-June issue of Academic Pediatrics found that from 1990 to 2010 more than 37,000 children were treated in emergency rooms for baby gate–related injuries. The report also noted that baby gate injuries quadrupled during the 20-year period the study assessed. Many of the injuries occurred because of falls down stairs or cuts from the gate’s hardware.
The study does not suggest parents forgo the use of gates, but instead that you choose an appropriate gate and take precautions to prevent harm.
The Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital recommends some important steps you can take to prevent baby gate injuries:
- At the top of your stairs, use hardware-mounted gates, rather than pressure-mounted models, which are subject to being pushed over.
- Install gates in your home for your children who are six months to two years of age.
- Remove the gates once your children reach two years old unless other children in the home still require their protection.
- Choose gates that cannot be climbed — for example, finely knitted mesh and small-slatted gates are harder for a child to climb.
Consumer Reports instructs parents to investigate these features when buying a gate:
- Height — Typically, at least three-quarters of your child’s height to prevent climbing
- Sturdiness — Smooth, splinter-free and durable
- Slat spacing — No less than three inches apart to avoid entrapment
- Latches — One that is easy for you to use, but difficult for your child to open
- Latch indicator — As an added safeguard to your double-checking each time, a latch indicator signals that the gate is securely closed
- Installation — The style and shape should suit the space it is intended to protect
If your child was injured by a fall, entrapment or severe cut on a baby gate, discuss your claim with a products liability attorney in California who can assess whether the manufacturer was at fault.