Study Finds Parents Rarely Use Baby Gates, Bath Thermometers

Sunday, April 30, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO -- A recent study by researchers in emergency medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found parents use baby gates and bath thermometers less than 25 percent of the time and pediatricians are partially to blame.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that primary care physicians discuss The Injury Prevention Program (TIPP™) with parents during the four to six month check-up. TIPP sheets include safety devices such as baby gates, window guards, smoke detectors, car seats and bath thermometers.

"To prevent unnecessary trips to the emergency room, primary care providers should thoroughly discuss all recommended safety devices with parents," said Winnie Whitaker, MD, a pediatric emergency medicine fellow at Cincinnati Children's and lead author of the study.

But, parents surveyed by researchers at Cincinnati Children's say that only happens in less than one out of every three cases.

Adds Dr. Whitaker, "We found that safety devices parents commonly use are discussed more than other less familiar devices."

Dr. Whitaker will present the findings at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies on Sunday, April 30.

The study focused on 140 parents who had their child evaluated by a primary care physician for a routine examination at four to six months old. The majority of parents surveyed in the Pediatric Primary Care Center at Cincinnati Children's reported being educated about safety devices for less than five minutes, with the average length of education being 3.7 minutes. Of these, baby gates, window guards and bath thermometers were discussed 35 percent of the time or less while 54 percent of parents recalled being educated about smoke detectors. Car seats were most commonly discussed at 75 percent of the time.

Nationally, there are as many as 10.4 million emergency room visits by children as the result of in-home accidents.

More than half of all nonfatal injuries to children are from falls, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign. Many of these falls involve unprotected stairways, which can be blocked by secure baby gates.

Nearly 24,000 children in the United States are treated in hospital emergency rooms every year for burns caused by scalding associated with hot liquids or steam. Scald burns are the number one cause of burns to children under age four. Young children have thinner skin resulting in deeper burns at lower temperatures than adults. The proportion of a child's body that can be easily exposed to burns is also greater. Cincinnati Children's physicians recommend that before baby's bath time, parents check the bath water with their elbow (not the hand, which is less sensitive) or buy a bathtub thermometer. Bath water temperature should be comfortably warm, about 90 degrees and the maximum temperature of the household water heater should be set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

"Although caregivers are only routinely discussing car seats and smoke detectors, these are two devices that have been shown in the literature to reduce the risk of death," said Dr. Whitaker. "The good news is that it seems like doctors are discussing, and parents are compliant with the devices most likely to save a child's life."

This study is part of a larger study funded by the Injury Free Coalition for Kids at Cincinnati Children's.

About Cincinnati Children's

Cincinnati Children's is a 475-bed institution devoted to bringing the world the joy of healthier kids. Cincinnati Children's is dedicated to transforming the way health care is delivered by providing care that is timely, efficient, effective, family-centered, equitable and safe. It ranks third nationally among all pediatric centers in research grants from the National Institutes of Health. The Cincinnati Children's vision is to be the leader in improving child health.

About Injury Free Coalition for Kids

Injury Free Coalition for Kids at Cincinnati Children's is a multi-disciplinary group composed of hospital personnel, including physicians, nurses and paramedics as well as community leaders and residents. The organization was formed in 2000 to prevent unintentional injuries among children living in at-risk neighborhoods through a variety of community-based interventions. The program is modeled after the national Injury Free Coalition for Kids started by Dr. Barbara Barlow at New York's Harlem Hospital in 1984.

Contact Information

Jim Feuer, cell 513-520-2967, 

Amy Caruso, cell 513-519-6334,