Bathrooms should be places of practicality and relaxation, a place to start and end the day. But there are a number of ways in which one room can pose potential threats.
A new study published today in the journal Pediatrics, for example, finds children are falling prey to bathtub injuries at surprising rates.
Lead by Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, the study found that more than 43,000 children younger than 18 are treated in an emergency room each year after a bathroom- or shower-related injury.
"That's 120 kids a day," Smith said. "It's a big problem."
Smith said the injuries occur suddenly, with children often slipping and falling, even under adult supervision, but that there are strategies for prevention that can reduce the number of injuries.
But slips and falls are only one of the ways researchers say items in a bathroom can be hazardous. Some of the threats are founded and others are on shakier ground. The following is a list examining potential bathroom threats.
Even under parental or other adult supervision, children get injured in bathtubs at an alarming rate, Smith said.
"Supervising your child isn't enough," said Smith, whose report showed that most injuries happen under adult supervision. "Slips and falls -- boom, they happen -- and there's nothing you can do once it starts to happen."
Smith said he conducted a study on similar data using admittance records from the emergency room of Nationwide Children's Hospital in 2005 and saw the number of bathtub-related injuries was unusually high, compared to other kinds of injuries.
"I thought, gosh, this is something we really didn't expect," Smith said he thought at the time.
That study led him to conduct a more thorough analysis on national data.
The most common cause of injury was slipping and falling, which accounted for 81 percent of all the injuries, Smith found, and the face is often most injured. The highest-risk age group was children younger than 5.
"The reason we haven't done well preventing injuries is we fundamentally don't think of this as a health problem," Smith said. "We know if we focus on the cause ... and think of this as a physical problem, we can resolve them. But the idea that they happen as accidents ... I really disagree with that."
For the time being, Smith said rubber bath mats and padding protruding objects could cut down on the number of injuries but recommended that manufacturers incorporate new design features, including slip-resistant surfaces, rounded edges and holding bars, into new bathrooms.
"You don't have to rely on the user to remember to put the mat down or step carefully each time they bathe because, then, the chances of effective prevention go down," Smith said. "If we design the problem out of existence, we've shown over and over in the field of injury prevention that we can dramatically decrease injury."
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