More children than usual are falling from windows in the DC area

The number of children who fell from windows in the D.C. area is up dramatically — at least 33 in 2020, compared with 18 known at this time last year.

The numbers come from Children’s National Hospital.

“We’ve also seen two deaths, which is absolutely unheard of,” said Dr. Katie Donnelly, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Children’s National and the medical director for Safe Kids D.C.

The reason for the spike in numbers is unclear. Donnelly suspects it’s because more people are stuck inside at home due to the pandemic, and kids may be less supervised by parents working from home or caregivers unaccustomed to watching them.

There were no such deaths this time last year. Injuries in D.C. are up to 12 from five; Maryland injuries are up to 19 from 13, and Children’s has treated two window-fall patients from Northern Virginia this year compared with one last year.

Most of the patients seen at Children’s National come from D.C. and from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, in Maryland.

Donnelly said the lower numbers from Northern Virginia may be a combination of an overall lower population density, and more houses rather than higher apartments. Also, it is unclear how many fall victims may have been seen at Inova Children’s Hospital in Falls Church. WTOP has reached out to Inova for their numbers.

What can parents do? Tips include talking with kids about the danger and making their environment safer.

There are fairly inexpensive devices that allow windows only to open two to three inches. They’re usually just suction cups. “They’re easy to remove in an emergency, but remind you to keep that window only open a little bit,” Donnelly said.

Also, it’s important to keep furniture away from windows.

“Even kids’ beds in their bedrooms — we want to make sure that those are not an interesting climbable space that leads to us getting out of a window,” she said.

It’s also OK to talk with youngsters about window falls, just like warning them that the stove is hot or not to touch cleaning products under the sink. It’s what Donnelly calls body and environmental awareness.

Tell a child, “‘Feel this screen. It’s not very sturdy. It’s not very safe’,” Donnelly said. “Talk with your kid and say, ‘Wow, we’re high up there. That might really hurt our body if we were to fall out. Let’s find somewhere safer to play.”

Toddlers are the age group most at risk.

“A hard group to mind, always into things and really one that all the talking to in the world will not substitute for good supervision,” Donnelly said.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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