Patient Story: Open Windows Pose Safety Risk

Natalie fell 13 feet onto the concrete patio.

During warm Southern California weather, San Diegans tend to leave their windows open to let in the cool breeze. It is one reason we love living here so much, but it also can present a serious safety hazard when children lean against a window screen.

Valerie Bach knows the danger all too well. One afternoon in 2016, Valerie sent her 5-year-old daughter, Natalie, upstairs to get ready for a shower. Once upstairs, Natalie leaned against the screen of an open window when the screen broke open and she fell 13 feet onto the concrete patio below.

Emergency responders arrived nearly immediately, and rushed Natalie to Rady Children’s Hospital where experts diagnosed her with a traumatic brain injury. She spent three weeks in a coma in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and another four weeks undergoing speech, occupational and physical therapy.

Each year, more than 4,000 children are treated in emergency rooms after falling out of an open window.

“We always tell parents that screens keep bugs out but they don’t keep children in,” says Mary Beth Moran, manager for Injury Prevention at Rady Children’s Hospital. She says there are low-cost solutions to keep children safe, including the Super Stopper, a removable suction cup wedge; she also recommends not opening the window more than five inches.

Today, 7-year-old Natalie continues speech therapy and enjoys spending her summer days creating art and making crafts and loves to swim. “Two years ago I could not imagine that Natalie would be where she is today,” Valerie says. “Our family has been incredibly blessed.”

Tips to Prevent Falls from Windows

  • Be sure to never place furniture under a window or near a window, little ones always love to climb and explore but this can be dangerous near a window.
  • Never depend on window screens to stop your child from falling out of windows.
  • Install window stops* so that windows will not be able to open more than 4 inches.
  • Install window guards* to keep children from falling. Ensure that on windows from the 6th story and below guards may be opened by adults and older children in case of a fire.
  • If possible, open windows from the top and not the bottom.

*These items can be purchased at the Rady Children Safety Store. Call 858-966-7973 or visit www.safetystoreatchildrens.org.

Published 2017