A study by the journal “Clinical Pediatrics” showed high chair-related injuries rose more than 22 percent between 2003 and 2010, with emergency rooms treating about 9,400 such injuries each year. That works out to one high chair injury every hour.
Head injuries caused by falling were the most common injury reported in the study — an unsurprising finding given that high chairs usually are higher than regular chairs and situated near hard surfaces such as tables or countertops.
“Putting your child in a high chair is such a habitual, everyday activity that it’s easy for busy parents to become complacent and forget some basic safety steps,” said Dr. Carol Salman, an Amita Health pediatrician.
The most important step is to use all parts of a high chair’s restraint system and to use them all the time — even if your child seems unlikely to fidget, stand or climb out of the high chair, Salman said.
“High chair-related injuries can happen in an instant, often when a parent turns away to prepare a child’s meal,” she said. “Children generally are ready to sit in a high chair once they can sit up on their own and eat solid food. From that point until they can sit safely in a regular chair, you always should secure them using use the high chair’s restraints.”
Also make sure your child’s high chair is stable, with its legs resting evenly on the floor and with any locking mechanisms fully engaged, Salman said. “High chairs with a wider base provide greater stability,” she said.
It’s also wise to keep enough space between a high chair and any table, countertop or other furnishings to prevent your child from pushing against them and tipping over the high chair. In addition, parents should ensure there are no hazards, such as stoves or drapery cords, within easy reach of the high chair.
Parents should use a high chair only for meals so children associate it with sitting and eating — and not with playing, Salman said.
“That way they’ll be less inclined to climb out,” she said.
Make sure your child does not stand in the high chair and there are no nearby toys, pets or other objects that your child might try to reach by stretching or leaning. “Also, keep other children from pushing or climbing on the high chair,” Salman said.
Parents always should use the tray that comes with a high chair.
“It can keep a child from overreaching,” Salman said. “Instead of dispensing with the tray as a child grows, just keep adjusting it based on the child’s size until he or she outgrows the high chair.”
A parent or other adult always should be present when a child is in a high chair, Salman said. Aside from guarding against a high chair accident, this precaution can keep a child from choking.
Before buying a high chair, check online for customer reviews and ratings by independent authorities. Also visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website, www.cpsc.gov, to check for high chair recalls.
Parents should avoid using older, hand-me-down high chairs, Salman said. Newer, lightly used high chairs can be fine if they are stable and meet modern safety standards, but old high chairs usually do not meet those standards, she said.
Ongoing maintenance is another important aspect of high chair safety.
“Get in the habit of checking your child’s high chair regularly for any broken parts or loose connections that could lead to an accident,” Salman said. “Repair the high chair if possible, and if not, replace it. Continuing to use a damaged high chair is not worth the risk.”