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The Injured Child: Hazards of Shopping Carts

Every year approximately 20,000 children under the age of 5 are injured from shopping carts and require emergency medical care. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 74% of injuries from shopping carts which occurred to children under the age of 15 involved a head or neck injury. Of children under the age of five, 79% of the injuries involved the head or neck. The statistics were more severe for children under the age of 1 with 93% sustaining a head or neck injury. In some cases, the injuries were so severe as to result in the death of a child. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2011 a three month old infant died when the shopping cart he was in hit a speed bump in the parking lot and his car seat fell off the cart. In 1994, a three year old boy died after standing up in the cart, causing the cart to tip over. The boy fell over backward and hit his head.

Shopping cart injuries are no laughing matter. In fact, shopping cart falls are among the leading cause of head injuries to young children. Three quarters of all shopping cart related injuries involve a head or neck injury, some with fatal consequences. The risk from shopping carts is so high that the CPSC conducted its own survey about the safety of shopping carts and the Academy of Pediatrics proposed their own set of recommendations to make shopping carts safer.

It was determined that there were several causes of shopping cart injuries. Injuries can occur when a child:

  • falls out of a shopping cart;
  • is in a shopping cart that tips over;
  • falls off the outside of the shopping cart;
  • gets entrapped in a shopping cart;
  • gets run over by a shopping cart; or
  • gets struck by a shopping cart.

The CPSC issued a voluntary standard in 2012 which requires restraint systems and a warning label on all shopping carts. Further, it encourages retailers to display a warning poster in their stores. Some general safety guidelines for parents include:

  • always using the restraint system in the shopping cart;
  • only using carts with a working restraint system;
  • never allowing your child to stand up in the shopping cart;
  • never allowing your child to ride on the outside of the shopping cart;
  • never place an infant seat in the shopping cart because it makes it more likely to tip over;
  • never leave your children unsupervised or unattended;
  • don’t let another child push the cart if another child is in it;
  • never allowing your child to ride in the basket of the shopping cart;
  • whenever possible using shopping carts specifically designed with seats for young children.

While it is still too early to see if the recommendations of the AAP and CPSC will come to fruition, it will fall upon the parents to ensure their child’s safety while using a shopping cart. If your child does suffer a head injury from falling out of a shopping cart, you may want to visit our page on Brain Injuries to learn more about these injuries, as well as view the Affected Families page which offers resources to families whose family member has suffered a traumatic brain injury.

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