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Neuroscience For Kids

Escalators and Children
August 31, 2006

Most people take escalators for granted. These moving staircases have been around for about 100 years and can be found in department stores, museums, shopping malls, airports, train stations and many other places where people need to get up and down. In the United States, there are approximately 33,000 escalators in operation. Although most people use escalators without a problem, escalators can be scary for small children. In fact, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, most escalator-related injuries happen to children younger than 5 years of age.

Researchers at The Ohio State University used data from emergency departments to conduct the first national study to determine the extent of escalator-related injuries in children. They estimate that between 1990 and 2002 in the US, there were approximately 26,000 injuries caused by escalators to children between the ages of 0 to 19 years of age. Children younger than 5 years old suffered 46.1% of these injuries. Falls were the primary cause for approximately half of the injuries to all of the children. Although the hand was the most common (40.6%) location of injuries to children younger than 5 years, injuries to the head were also common (39.1%) in this group of children. The number of head injuries that resulted in a concussion was not reported.

The researchers noted that compared to older children, young children have larger heads relative to their bodies and have a higher center of gravity. These characteristics may cause younger children to lose their balance and fall over head first as they ride escalators. Young kids also do not have as much arm strength and coordination to protect their heads when they fall.

As a reminder for people with young children, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has these safety tips to prevent escalator injuries:

References and more information:

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