Let's be honest: when parents consider the many potential hazards that our children face each day, shopping carts probably don't top the list. We're more likely to worry about chemicals in our bath products, poisons in our medicine cabinet, and which carseat is going to prove safest in a crash.
All good things to worry about, of course, but if recent research is any indication, we also need to pay better attention to the serious danger that shopping carts can pose to our kids.
Shopping Cart Injuries on the Rise
According to a new study published in Clinical Pediatrics, more than 24,000 children are treated in the emergency room for shopping cart-related injuries each year. That's an average of 66 children a day, or one child every 22 minutes.
And even though shopping cart safety standards were implemented in the United States in 2004, the numbers continue to rise.
"The findings from our study show that the current voluntary standards for shopping cart safety are not adequate," said Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in a statement. "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."
Children under the age of 5 seem to be the most vulnerable, which makes sense since they're the ones typically riding in carts. A few weeks ago, this video of a Home Depot employee catching a baby who had fallen out of a cart just seconds before her head hit the floor went viral (and probably hit a little too close to home for parents who have had a similar close encounter).
Safety Steps We Can All Take
Shopping with your kids can be, for lack of a better term, hell on earth. Whether you have a screaming infant or toddler prone to tantrums, it isn't easy to get in and out of a store with your sanity intact. Still, shopping carts can't be held entirely responsible for falls and injuries, and in the end, it's up to us as parents to keep our kids safe.
Until shopping cart designs are improved, we're going to have to take it upon ourselves to protect our children. Here are a few tips that can help.
- Learn about babywearing. Infants and toddlers can all be worn in a variety of baby carriers. When done correctly, babywearing is a safe alternative to putting your child in a cart while you shop.
- Shop alone. If you have the option of leaving your little ones at home while you shop (which many of us unfortunately do not), take advantage of it.
- NEVER put an infant carrier on top of a cart. Even if the carrier clicks in securely, it is NOT safe to put it there. If you need to put it somewhere, put in the basket of the cart.
- Opt for carts that are closer to the ground. Those giant fire engine carts that are so heavy to push? They're actually safer for toddlers (sigh), since they're less likely to fall out of them as long as they're buckled.
- Bring an extra set of eyes. Shop with your partner, an older child, or even a mother's helper who can keep an eye on the baby in the cart while you gather the groceries you need.
- Be vigilant. Use the straps. Keep your eyes on your child. Don't walk away from the cart. Most importantly, use common sense. Infants and toddlers require constant supervision; shopping carts are no exception.
Do your little ones ride in shopping carts? Do you take the proper safety precautions?