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Publication #FAR2033

Keeping Children Safe on Stairs1

Carol Church2

Figure 1. 
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If you have a young child and live in a house with stairs, you’ve probably carried your son or daughter on them thousands of times. And while you were surely very careful the first times you brought that fragile newborn up or down, you may have become a bit less cautious. Or maybe your child is a preschooler now and scampers up and down all day long.

But as a new report in the journal Pediatrics reminds us, stairs remain a very common cause of childhood injuries. Every 6 minutes, a child under 5 goes to the ER with a stair-related injury; most are to the vulnerable head and neck (Zielinski, Rochette, & Smith, 2012).

The good news is that stair-related injuries to children have declined significantly over the past 10 years, due in large part to new safety regulations for baby walkers that make it harder for children to fall downstairs in them. And, luckily, only about 3% of these incidents are serious enough to require hospitalization (Zielinski, Rochette, & Smith, 2012).

How can you avoid stair-related injuries? Keep stairs clutter-free, and don’t allow children to play on them. While gates can be useful, they are never a substitute for good supervision. When carrying a child on stairs, hold the handrail, and don’t hold other items. Teach your child to hold that handrail, too, and to ask an adult for help if he or she needs to carry something. Finally, never use strollers on stairs. Following these guidelines should make it easier for your children to stay safe, both upstairs and down (Zielinski, Rochette, & Smith, 2012).

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Zielinski, A. E., Rochette, L. M., & Smith, G. A. (2012). Stair-related injuries to young children treated in US emergency departments, 1999–2008. Pediatrics. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-2314



This document is FAR2033, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original broadcast date March 14, 2012, as program 1890. Published on EDIS March 2013. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Carol Church, writer, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.