Bunk Bed Safety and Dangers for Children

A boy plays in his bedroom
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Bunk beds are frequently used as a child's first regular or big-kid bed after he/she outgrows a crib—either at about age 2 or 35 inches (890 mm) in height. Some bunk beds also are used separately as twin beds for older children and even adults.

Dangers for Children

Each year, over 35,000 children receive hospital emergency room treatment for injuries associated with bunk beds.

Most of these injuries are fairly minor and occur when children fall from the beds. Kids playing on their bunk beds often contribute to these accidents.

There are other less obvious, yet potentially very serious hazards associated with bunk bed structures that have entrapped children and resulted in suffocation or strangulation deaths.

Safety of Bunk Beds

To keep your kids safe when sleeping in a bunk bed, you should:

  • Always use two side guardrails on the upper bunk. Keep guardrails securely in place at all times no matter what the age of the child. Children move about during sleep and may roll out of bed.
  • Not permit children under 6 years of age to sleep in the upper bunk.
  • Be sure cross ties are under the mattress foundation of each bed and that they are secured in place even if bunks are used as twin beds.
  • Emphasize to children to use the ladder and not chairs or other pieces of furniture to climb into or out of the top bunk.
  • Teach children that rough play is unsafe around and on beds and other furniture.
  • Consider using a night light so that children will be able to see the ladder if they get up during the night.

And make sure that your child's bunk bed hasn't been recalled.

1 Source
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  1. D'souza AL, Smith GA, Mckenzie LB. Bunk bed-related injuries among children and adolescents treated in emergency departments in the United States, 1990-2005. Pediatrics. 2008;121(6):e1696-702. doi:10.1542/peds.2007-2555

By Vincent Iannelli, MD
Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.