Injuries from high chairs or booster seats are sending an increasing number of U.S. children for treatment each year, doctors who oversaw a seven-year study have found.

On average, more than 9,400 children were treated each year for injuries associated with a high chair or booster seat, suggests an analysis of data on children three years old and under who were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments from 2003 through 2010.

High chairs

To prevent injuries, keep the area around the high chair clear, doctors suggest following the release of a U.S. report that found thousands of children get treated annually for falls from high chairs and booster seats. (Paulo Whitaker/Reuters)

In the cases that reported what the child was doing just before the fall, two-thirds of the children injured were climbing or standing in the chair, the researchers said in Monday's online issue of the journal Clinical Pediatrics.

"The number 1 thing parents can do to prevent injuries related to high chairs is to use the safety restraint system in the chair," said Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

"The vast majority of injuries from these products are from falls. Buckling your child in every time you use the high chair can help keep them safe," he added in a release.

Since the products are elevated and are generally used in kitchens and dining areas, a falling child can strike a hard surface with considerable force, the study's authors said.

The researchers give these safety tips:

  • Buckle the child in the seat with the straps every time. Doing so will help set a routine and keep the child seated and securely in the chair. Ensure the straps are in good working order and firmly attached to the chair. Only use chairs with either a three-point or five-point harness that includes a crotch strap or post. The tray is not enough to keep children in the seat.
  • Teach the child that the high chair is only for eating. Allowing a child or older sibling to play, climb or stand in the chair can cause it to tip.
  • Keep the area around the high chair clear. Children are naturally curious and will grab tablecloths, placemats, sharp silverware and hot food that may be in reach. If the chair is too close to the table, a counter or the wall, the child may knock the chair over by kicking their feet into these objects.
  • Test out a chair before selecting it. Chairs with wide bases are often more stable. Use high chairs that meet current safety standards. If the chair has wheels, ensure they are locked into place before use.
  • Stay with your child during mealtime. An unsupervised child is more likely to try to escape from the chair and can also be more likely to choke on food.
  • Check for recalls to ensure the chair you are using does not have any known injury hazards.

In the study, head injuries, including concussions and internal head injuries, were the most common diagnosis associated with falls from high chairs (37 per cent), followed by bumps and bruises (33 per cent) and cuts (19 per cent).

The number of injuries related to high chairs increased to 10,930 in 2010 from 8,926 in 2003.

The researchers also looked at injuries from other chairs. They found an average of 40,889 injuries associated with chairs annually. Injuries related to high chairs were typically in younger children, with an average age of 16 months, compared with 23 months for chairs.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded the study.