Window safety for toddlers
It was lunchtime, and the toddler was playing in the living room at his grandmother’s house.
Aaron Acedo, just short of 2, was tossing around a ball, jumping and climbing, singing and shouting.
His family was gathered around the island in the kitchen getting ready to eat.
Aaron’s mother, Maria, during a lull in conversation, noticed her voluble son had gone quiet.
She turned and saw his two feet dangling above the floor and behind a curtain covering a window.
“All I saw were his feet in the air, and they were purple,” Maria recalls. “It was terrible to see that. I started panicking.”
Maria and others rushed over and freed Aaron from the window covering cord that had become entangled around his neck. He apparently had jumped up and got snagged in it.
Now, he wasn’t breathing.
Maria’s sister, Yolanda Pedroza, who is trained in CPR, began chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the toddler as someone called 911.
Aaron soon started breathing.
“He then started crying hysterically,” Maria says.
Paramedics arrived and whisked Aaron to CHOC, where he stayed overnight for observation.
A potentially lethal hazard
Luckily, Aaron’s near-accidental strangulation on July 7, 2021, ended up with a happy conclusion, with the boy suffering no permanent injuries. Doctors told Maria and her husband, Adrian, that if Aaron had remained dangling from the cord for much longer brain damage or death would have occurred.
Aaron did develop pulmonary edema (fluid on the lungs), which required oxygen and other support in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Unfortunately, young ones still die in alarming numbers from cords dangling from window blinds.
CHOC pediatricians are taking the opportunity to remind parents about this hazard – and to remind them to take steps to reduce the risk of this very preventable injury or death.
“There are many unexpected hazards for toddlers – open bodies of water, medications, and toxic substances are familiar to most parents,” says Dr. Paul Lubinsky, medical director, CHOC Specialist, associate medical director of CHOC’s PICU and a professor of pediatrics at UC Irvine. “Accidental strangulation is less common.”
There has been legislation surrounding closed-loop blind cords and yet the law is not uniformly enforced, and many parents are unaware of the risk, Dr. Lubinsky says.
“While a closed-loop cord is a particular problem, any hanging rope or cord presents a risk of strangulation,” Dr. Lubinsky says. “These are silent events that can and must be prevented. If in use, blind cords should always be out of reach. Even if there are no children in the home this should occur as toddlers may visit.”
An older study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that 183 children died between 1981 and 1995 from accidental pediatric asphyxia after getting entangled in window-covering cords. Of these fatalities, 93 percent were kids 3 or younger.
Window-covering cords remain a “substantial strangulation hazard” compared with other potentially harmful household products that were modified based on voluntary standards to mitigate the risk of injury or death, the NIH study found.
A more recent study, by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), found that from 1990 through 2015, there were 16,827 window blind-related injuries among children younger than 6 in the U.S. Entanglement injuries accounted for 11.9% of all cases.
In more than 93 percent of the 16,827 incidents, the kids were treated and released, the AAP study found.
Still, “cases involving window blind cord entanglements frequently resulted in hospitalization or death,” the study found.
“Despite existing voluntary safety standards for window blinds, these products continue to pose an injury risk to young children,” the study concluded. “A mandatory safety standard that eliminates accessible window blind cords should be adopted.”
Maria and Adrian Acedo, who have three other children ages 6 to 13, are all for such a standard.
“My advice is if there are curtains with those cords tie them up if they’re hanging down, or just replace them,” Maria says.
She praised the care Aaron received at CHOC.
“I’m really grateful how they explained everything to us,” Maria says. “Every time they would give him something, they would explain what it does. They were great.”
Maria said that prior to the accident, she and her husband had talked about the blind cords in their apartment.
“But I never thought it would actually happen to us,” she says.
Prevent accidental window cord strangulation at home
Just like Aaron’s family, you can make some simple changes to your window coverings and hanging cords to prevent a strangulation accident for children. Consider these simple solutions from CHOC’s Safety & Injury Prevention center:
- Keep cords and strings, including those attached to window blinds out of reach of children.
- Eliminate any dangling cords. Wind up and cut blind cords if looped to prevent strangulation.
- Use cord stops or window cord cleets when necessary. Make sure they are installed properly, up high and out of reach.
- Move all cribs, beds, furniture and toys away from windows and window covering cords, preferably to another wall.
- If in the market to buy new window coverings, invest in cordless window blinds.
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