If it's high up, it's high risk

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Infant car seats save thousands of lives each year when they are properly installed in cars.

The newest versions also can be used as hand-held baby carriers and snap-in seats in strollers. But improper use of these safety devices outside of the car can lead to serious injuries.

When your child is in his or her car seat and placed on a high surface, the potential for serious falls is very real.

These incidences can cause a range of injuries including head trauma and fractures. If your child is in an infant car seat and is placed on a soft surface such as a couch or a crib mattress, the seat can tip over, leaving your baby face-down and at risk for suffocation.

Car seats can be found everywhere in the home and they have become so portable that you may not think twice about carrying your child into the home in a car seat, then placing him or her on a counter or table while you take care of errands around the house.

The bottom line is if it's high up, it's high risk. Ideally, infant car seats should be kept in the car and used as intended. If you do take the infant car seat out of the car, place it on the floor and be sure to keep the buckles secure. Placing the car seat on anything higher than the floor and not securing the buckles puts your child at serious risk.

This advice holds true against a popular child-care tip. A lot of parents have heard that it's good to place their child on a washer or dryer in an infant car seat and let the vibrations put their baby to sleep.

There have been serious injuries when the parent is distracted and the vibration pitches the baby off the appliance and onto the floor.

Infant car seats should be used for what they were made to do: keep your child safe in a moving vehicle. If you do take the car seat out with your child in it, be sure to keep your child buckled and place it on the floor and nowhere higher. Remember: if it's high up, it's high risk.

When your baby is in an infant car seat be sure:

  • He or she is strapped in at all times, even if he or she is not in the car.
  • The car seat is placed on the floor if you are not holding it in your arms.
  • To remember that if your child is not in a car seat, but is sitting on a surface higher than the floor, such as a physician's exam table, it is very important that you keep one hand on him or her to ensure safety.

How to properly place your child in a car seat:

  • Select the correct car seat or booster seat for your child's age, weight and height.
  • Always read and follow the instructions that come with the car seat. Also read and follow the instructions in the vehicle owner's manual.
  • Place your child in the car seat. The child's back and bottom should be flat against the back of the car seat.
  • The harness straps should fit snugly against your child's body. You should not be able to pinch together any slack in the harness at the child's collarbone.
  • The harness clip should be at your child's armpit level. The clip keeps the harness straps close and snug on your child's shoulders.

For the best protection, all children should ride rear-facing in properly fitted car seats until they are at least 20 pounds and one year of age, and longer when possible.

The rear-facing position is the safest way for infants and toddlers to ride in a vehicle. Never place a rear-facing infant in the front seat of a vehicle that has an active passenger side airbag.

According to the new Ohio booster seat law, every child younger than 8 years old is required to ride in a booster seat or other appropriate child safety seat until the child is at least 4'9" tall. For more information, contact one of Nationwide Children's Hospital's child passenger safety specialists at (614) 722-6524, or call the Auto Safety Hotline at 1-800-424-9393.

Watch Pediatric HealthSource at 5 p.m. Thursdays on 10TV News HD.

Each month, Pediatric HealthSource shares the latest treatment and research advancements from Nationwide Children's Hospital. This column is part of an ongoing community education project brought to you by: Discount Drug Mart.