Window Blinds and Child Injuries

window blinds, toddlers
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According to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), window blinds are a leading cause of injury in children under the age of 6. 

 In fact, window blind cords injure two children under the age of 6 every single day and kill close to one child every single month, too. Here's what parents should know about window blinds and injury in children. 

Window Blinds Injuries

For a long time, the AAP has known that window blind cords pose an injury risk to children. A press release from the AAP noted that window blind cords have been a "safety hazard" to children for over 70 years. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), window blind cords are among the top five hidden hazards in US homes. To try to reduce the injury risk to children, there have been voluntary regulations placed on blind cords for window manufacturers for several years. But new data the AAP analyzed has proven that the regulations are, sadly, not enough.

The Danger of Window Blinds

To try to establish that window blind cords are still posing a significant risk to children under the age of 6, the AAP analyzed data in the United States from 1990 to 2015. The data came from both the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and the In-Depth Investigation (IDI) databases. Using the combined data, the research experts were able to add up all the injuries and fatalities that had occurred in children under the age of 6 with a corresponding visit to the emergency department. All of the injuries occurred as a direct result of window blind cords and not from anything else, such as window curtains or drapes. 

The data revealed an injury rate from window blinds of 2.7 per 100,000 children, all resulting in emergency room visits. Overall, there were 16,827 injuries total in children and the types and severities of those injuries varied.

The most common type of injury is an injury caused by being "struck by" a window blind cord or part of the cord.

This injury usually results in laceration of some kind of the child's skin, such as a cut or a bruise. Most of those types of injuries were not severe and were treatable. 

A more severe type of injury, however, was an injury by entanglement, which accounted for 11.9 percent of all injury cases. The overwhelming majority of entanglement incidents (98.9 percent) were a result of the blind cords and most of them involved the child's neck. Typically, a child became entangled in the window blind's operating cords (most commonly, at 76.4 percent) or in the inner cords (at 22.1 percent). As an example of what kind of cords those are, they included both cords from horizontal blinds and roman shades or cords that help raise or lower shades. There were even cases of children getting caught in cords that parents had tied up in multiple loops in hopes of preventing their children from getting stuck. 

As you might expect, entanglement injuries and incidents were the most dangerous to children. The AAP found that two-thirds of entanglement incidents ultimately resulted in the death of the child. Overall, the data revealed that there is close to one child death per month as a result of window blind cord injury or entanglement. 

Who's Most at Risk?

The data revealed that children under the age of 6 are most at risk for injury caused by window blind cords, but toddlers are most at risk of any age group. This is because toddlers are naturally curious, tend to want to explore their environment, and are strong and mobile enough to do things like scale furniture or climb up on window sills. 

Toddlers were also most at risk because parents couldn't hear them if they did become tangled or injured by the cord. The strangulation happens silently, as their airway is closed off, much like drowning, and it happens very quickly. The majority of injuries and deaths occurred when the child was being cared for by a parent but had been left alone for less than 10 minutes. For example, a large majority of the injuries happened after a parent had put a child to bed and was out of the room. Another common occurrence was a child being left alone for a few minutes watching television as a parent stepped out of the room, something many parents can relate happens quite frequently. 

Typically, toddlers also tended to use some kind of furniture to reach the window blind cords, and the data revealed that cribs or playpens, couches or sofas, or window sills were common, with beds being the most common piece of furniture used.

Overall, a toddler aged 2.2. years was most at risk alone at night in his or her bedroom after a parent had put him/her to sleep. 

What's Being Done to Reduce the Dangers

When window blind cords were first found to be a threat to children back in the 1990s, after it was reported that 183 children had died, there was some movement to try to prevent future deaths by changing how window blind cords are made. For example, in 1994, the CPSC and Window Covering Manufacturers Association, Inc (WCMA) made a plan to get rid of loops in window blind pull cords and even offered free repair kits. There have also been various recalls and the establishment of voluntary safety standards for window coverings and treatments, but as this data shows, keeping the standards voluntary means that not everyone is following safety recommendations and that not all parents are aware of how dangerous window blind cords can truly be. 

The AAP noted in its study that many types of blind cords are designed to be safer when properly used, but not all parents are aware of the safety recommendations and install the blinds properly. For example, they explained that continuous loop cords, which are common in vertical and roll-up shades need a tension device in order to work properly. If the device is not installed or installed incorrectly or damaged, the continuous loop is then left hanging, which presents a strangulation hazard. The AAP estimates that there are a lot of households that have inner blind cords that are defective or not properly installed, thus posing an unknown risk. 

The single best way you can prevent injury or death from window blind cords is by eliminating all window blind cords from your home.

A study referenced by the AAP noted that although most parents reported being aware that window blind cords are dangerous, less than a quarter of them had actually taken steps to ensure their own homes were safe. 

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that parents eliminate all window blinds that have cords in their homes and replace them with cord-free or inaccessible cord blinds. These types of blinds are available from most major window treatment manufacturers. Parents should also regularly inspect any inaccessible cord blinds to ensure that they have not broken, leaving cords exposed. And finally, do not place any cribs, beds, or sofas near windows in rooms that children play or sleep in. 

A Word From Verywell

Window blind cords pose a risk of injury or death for children under the age of 6. Toddlers are especially at risk because they are naturally curious and prone to explore their environment. Injury or death can occur very swiftly and silently as a result of cord strangulation or entanglement. The AAP is recommending that all window blind cords be eliminated. If you are a parent with window coverings that have window blind cords, consider replacing them with cordless window blinds or some other type of window treatment that does not have cords of any kind. 

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Article Sources
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  1. Bridget Onders, Eun Hye Kim, Thitphalak Chounthirath, Nichole L. Hodges, Gary A.Smith. (2017, December) Pediatric Injuries Related to Window Blinds, Shades, and Cords. Pediatrics, e20172359; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2017-2359

  2. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, Window Covering Cords Information Center, "Kids and cords don't mix." 2017

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics, "Pediatric Injuries Related to Window Blinds, Shades, and Cords"

  4. National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS)