Next to your car, your home may be one of the most dangerous places for your child.

New research shows that aside from motor vehicle injuries, children are more likely to die from an accidental injury they sustained at home than in any other place.

The study shows that despite recent reductions in unintentional injuries at home, more than half of child deaths caused by accidental injuries in a known location happen at home. The top causes of accidental deaths among children at home were fires, submersion in water, suffocation, poisoning, and falls.

Researchers say child deaths due to intentional injuries and child abuse may get more attention, but child deaths caused by unintentional injuries at home occur far more often, and most could have been prevented with adequate safety measures and supervision.

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Where Accidental Child Deaths Happen

In the study, which appears in the August issue of Pediatrics, researchers analyzed injury-related deaths among children under 20 from 1985-1997 using National Vital Statistics System Mortality Data.

The results show that more than 14,500 children died each year from unintentional injuries. Of those, 65 percent of the injuries were caused by motor vehicle injuries, railway accidents, or medical complications not coded for location of injury occurrence. The other 35 percent of unintentional injuries happened in a known location.

Of the more than 5,100 unintentional injuries that happened each year in a known location, more than half (55 percent) of the injuries happened at home.

Researchers say the rate of fatal accidents at home decreased by 22 percent from 1987 to 1997. The majority of unintentional injuries sustained at home were preventable, such as injuries due to fire, drowning, or poisoning.

The death rate due to accidental injuries in the home was highest among infants under 1 year of age and children aged 1-5 years compared with other age groups.

Boys were nearly twice as likely to die from unintentional injuries sustained at home as girls. Black children were also twice as likely to die from accidental injuries at home as white children.

Researchers say the racial differences in accidental child death rates may be due to substandard housing, lower levels of education, and poverty. They say strategies to develop and enforce health-based housing standards could dramatically reduce the number of accidental child deaths at home.

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By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCES: Nagaraja, J. Pediatrics, August 2005; vol 116: 454-461. News release, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.