Improperly Installed Baby Gates Cause Thousands Of Injuries Nationwide

Published: .
Updated: .

Baby gates are devices designed to keep your kids safe, but a new study shows they actually could hurt them instead.

Five times every day, a small child winds up in a hospital emergency room after a mishap with a baby gate.  That’s more than 37,000 times in a 20-year period.

Researchers at Nationwide Children's Center for Injury Research and Policy say the gates can work, but only if you use the right one in the right spot.

At 19 months, Ella Wrights is a busy girl.  Like most toddlers, she's always on the move.  So months ago, her mom, Jessica Fannon, installed baby gates by the stairs. But when Ella was eight months old, Jessica heard a terrible thumping.

"I just knew in the pit of my stomach what it was.  And she had fallen over a baby gate that I had up, and fell down 14 stairs," said Jessica Fannon, Ella's mother.  "I was more terrified than she was."

A quick trip to the hospital showed that Ella was fine. But for other tots, that's not always the case.

"The types of injuries that we saw were everything from open wounds, cuts and lacerations, to traumatic brain injuries," Lara McKenzie, Ph.D. said. 

Dr. McKenzie does research at the Children's Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital.  She's also the mother of triplet toddlers and uses baby gates herself. She examined data on injuries related to the gates between 1990 and 2010.  She found that 37,673 kids under age 7 needed hospital treatment.  The problem stems from the kind of gates, and where they're used. 

She said that pressure gates belong between rooms or at the bottom of the stairs, because they're easy to push down.

"You don't want to use those at the top of the stairs, where, if you'd push through, you'd fall down the stairs. So at the top of the stairs we'd want to use one we either call a mounted gate, or one that's installed with hardware on both sides," she said.

Jessica said that she had no idea pressure-mounted gates could be dangerous in the wrong location, because there was no warning on the box.

"I thought my whole house was child-proofed, and never thought this would happen,"  she said.

Dr. McKenzie said parents absolutely should continue to use baby gates.  However, she'd like to see the voluntary standards for these products made mandatory.

The study appears in the May-June issue of Academic Pediatrics.