Abu Dhabi: A team of researchers at UAE University (UAEU) has called for baby-walkers to be banned in the UAE after a study found that they resulted in a high number of accidents, injuries and even death among children.
Dr Michal Grivna
The study was carried out by Professor Michal Grivna, Amna Al Hanaee, Ayesha Al Dhahab, Fatima Al Kaabi and Shamma Al Muhairi from the Institute of Public Health at UAEU’s College of Life Sciences, and Professor Peter Barss from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
It collated information from 696 Grade 12 students about accidents in their homes, and found that almost half the families who used a baby walker had seen at least one child being injured as a result.
Of the 646 injuries reported through the survey, 3 children died – one after being hit by a car while in a baby walker – and 11 were left with long-term disabilities.
The findings, gathered through issuing a questionnaire, suggest that every child placed in a baby walker is at risk of injury.
In their research paper, the UAEU team said that while baby walkers are known to be “frequent causes of infant injuries”, there was “little research” on the issue in the Middle East and few population-based studies had been carried out.
Other worrying statistics also revealed that 118 children had to go to the emergency room as a result of their injury, with 42 having to be hospitalised.
The most notable cause of injuries to children while using a baby-walker was colliding with a hard object.
Baby-walkers turning over, and falling down the stairs were also found to be a main cause of injuries. There were also 32 cases of children using baby-walkers falling into swimming pools.
“Although hitting a hard object and flipping over on a flat surface were the most frequent baby-walker injury incidents in the UAE, the most dangerous incidents were falls down stairs and into pools,” the report said. “Many families, especially citizens, live in multi-storey residences with inside and outside stairs. Other frequent hazards include more than one floor-level on the same storey, and play areas contiguous with parking and traffic.
“Home pools are another hazardous built environment, and in our study 31 incidents involved infants in baby walkers falling into pools. Exposure is high, with 12 per cent of families having pools in this study.”
The team of researchers also said that awareness of the health risks associated with baby-walkers should be highlighted if the products were not going to be banned, but they did stress than an overall ban, similar to the one implemented by Canada, was the best option.
“In the UAE, if there are no manufacturers [of baby-walkers], a ban could be focused mainly on importation and sales,” the team said.