Baby safety gates aren't always safe, study finds

CHICAGO (AP) - Baby gates meant to protect young children aren't always as safe as parents think. A new study says nearly 2,000 U.S. kids get emergency room treatment each year from injuries resulting from falling through or climbing on these gates.

Most injuries weren't serious. But the researchers say parents should know about precautions. That includes using bolted gates, not pressure-mounted ones, at the top of the stairs.

Researcher Lara McKenzie and colleagues at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, examined data on kids up to age 6.

The number injured on gates more than tripled over 20 years. These cases climbed from about 4 per 100,000 children in 1990 to almost 13 per 100,000 in 2010.

The study was published online Monday in the journal Academic Pediatrics.

"I find it to be very interesting," Jean Shoemaker, the Safe Kids coordinator at All Children's Hospital said of the study's findings.

Shoemaker believes a big part of the problem stems from improper installation. 

"We're so busy that we don't always read the instructions," she said. "Make sure that you purchase the type of baby gate that's appropriate for your home and your child and your situation."

In addition to never using a pressure-mounted gate at the top of a stairwell, Shoemaker recommended also not using a gate that opens over the stairs. 

She also said pay attention to the gate's height.

"You want to have less than three inches from the bottom of the floor to here," she said, pointing to the bottom rung of the gate. 

Shoemaker advises parents to look for a fine mesh gate or one with narrow slats to eliminate the possibility a child could climb the gate or get an appendage stuck.

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