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THURSDAY, Jan. 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Be careful when you plunk your youngster into a shopping cart on your next trip to the grocery store.
New U.S. research finds that one child winds up in the emergency room every 22 minutes because of an injury related to shopping carts.
Falling from shopping carts caused most of the injures (about 70 percent), followed by running into/falling over a cart, cart tip-overs, and fingers, legs or arms getting trapped in a cart, according to the study in the January issue of Clinical Pediatrics.
Overall, the researchers found that more than 500,000 children under the age of 15 were treated at emergency rooms for shopping cart-related injuries between 1990 and 2011, an average of more than 24,000 a year.
The head was the area of the body most often injured in shopping cart accidents, at 78 percent. Soft tissue injuries were the most common type of head injury, but the annual rate of concussions and internal head injuries rose by more than 200 percent during the study period, from 3,483 in 1990 to 12,333 in 2011. Most of this increase occurred in infants and toddlers.
Voluntary shopping cart safety standards introduced in the United States in 2004 have done little good, the researchers noted.
"The findings from our study show that the current voluntary standards for shopping cart safety are not adequate," Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said in a hospital news release.
"Not only have the overall number of child injuries associated with shopping carts not decreased since implementation of the safety standards, but the number of concussions and closed head injuries is actually increasing," Smith said. "It is time we take action to protect our children by strengthening shopping cart safety standards with requirements that will more effectively prevent tip-overs and falls from shopping carts."
Suggestions include improved restraint systems, placing child seats in shopping carts closer to the floor, teaching parents about shopping cart safety and having stores promote the use of cart safety belts.
The researchers added that there is even more that parents can do to keep their children safe around shopping carts. These include not using carts that lack safety restraints or have broken wheels, staying with your cart and your child at all times and not putting infant seats on top of shopping carts. Parents should also consider putting their infants either in strollers or in carriers that strap to the front or back of the parent's body.
"It is important for parents to understand that shopping carts can be a source of serious injury for their children," said Smith, a professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University College of Medicine. "However, they can reduce the risk of injury by taking a few simple steps of precaution, such as always using the shopping cart safety belts if their child needs to ride in the cart."
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about shopping cart safety.