Window Falls

Hidden Hazards: Preventing Window Falls this Summer

Children are vulnerable to falls—regardless of whether they live in single-family homes, apartments, the city, or the suburbs.

Each year, 3,500 to 5,000 U.S. children are hospitalized after falling from an open window. These falls are preventable

Harborview Medical Center, admits 40 to 50 young children annually for injuries sustained in falls from windows. Most window falls happen in the child’s own home and during the spring and summer months. Serious head injuries are common with window falls; other injuries include facial fractures, neck and abdominal injuries, and arm/leg fractures. 

Over 94% of the windows that children fall through have a window screen in place. Window screens provide no protection against these tragedies and are likely to contribute to the risk of a window fall. 

“Window screens give a false sense of security,” says Dr. Brian Johnston, chief of pediatrics at Harborview Medical Center, the region’s only Level I pediatric and adult trauma center.

“A screen is not a safety device. It’s designed to keep insects out, not to keep children in. Parents of young children need to take other steps to prevent this tragedy.”

One-third of children hospitalized after a window fall require intensive care, and one in four children return home with some disability. As of 2021, about 53% of homes had air conditioning in the City of Seattle, according to the U.S. Census Bureau

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; BMJ Journals: Injury Prevention; Harborview Medical Center

Four inches is key to preventing window falls


Remember, window screens DO NOT prevent children from falling out a window; instead, they create a false sense of security which contributes to fall risk.

Window screens are designed to pop out for fire safety ‑ the weight of a toddler or child can easily push through a screen. Instead, opt to open a window no more than four inches, to allow for ventilation.

Children ages two to five are at the greatest risk of falling out of a window—and most of these falls are preventable.

Courtesy: UW Medicine, Harborview Medical Center

  • Keep Windows Closed: When possible, keep windows closed in rooms where children play. Open windows from the top rather than the bottom.
  • Use Window Guards & Window Stops: For windows you must open fully, install a window guard or window stopper.
    • Window Stops can be installed on windows that slide open (horizontally) to prevent them from opening more than four inches.
    • Window Guards can help add a barrier in front of a window that prevents a small child from falling out. Window Guards must be operable by an adult and must have a fire escape.
  • Four Inches: Never open a window more than four inches. Windows open more than four inches are susceptible to a toddler or child passing through.
  • DO NOT RELY on Window Screens: Screens are designed to keep bugs and pest out, they are also designed to pop out for fire safety. The weight of a child can easily push through a window screen. 
  • Move Furniture: Move beds, chairs, tables and other furniture away from windows ‑ these can allow a small child to climb onto the sill.
  • Adult Supervision: Always supervise small children.
  • Avoid Sitting in Window Sills: Do not permit children to sit on window sills or jump from window sills to furniture.
  • Exterior Landscaping: Consider placing shrubs, bark or grass under windows to cushion potential falls. 
  • New Construction: New homes should meet safety standards to prevent window falls. Talk with your contractor or landlord to make sure your home meets window safety standards.

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