(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- Every four hours a child under the age of 3 is treated in the Emergency Department for an injury caused by a bottle, pacifier or sippy cup. Previous studies had focused on choking and burns caused by these products. But a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics has shown that a range of injuries can occur, especially injuries to the mouth.
"Our study team was interested in doing this study because we recognized that almost every child in the U.S. uses all of these products on a daily basis at some point during infancy or early childhood," said Sarah Keim, principal investigator in the Center for Biobehavioral Health at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and a researcher on the study. "We noticed that there was really no research about injuries associated with these products, aside from a handful of case reports about severe burns from overheated bottles and asphyxiation or ingestion of pacifier parts."
Keim and her colleagues at Nationwide studied 20 years of data and found that around 2,000 children each year are treated in the emergency room for injuries from these products. Children younger than 3 were usually hurt when falling while these objects were in their mouths.
If there is a silver lining, Keim said, it is that the number of injuries has been on the decline in recent years compared to years past -- though it is hard to say exactly why.
"It could be [that] children are using the products less, the products are somehow safer, or the injuries are less severe and so don't arrive at emergency departments for care," she said.
Still, the idea that bottles and sippy cups could be leading to these injuries at all may be surprising to parents.
"Everybody uses them, so we automatically assume that they are safe -- but are they really?" said Dr. Deborah Lonzer, chair of the department of community pediatrics for the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. "This study shows that they may not be as safe as we think that they are."
Children around age 1 were most likely to be injured, probably because kids are learning to walk, climb and run around this time. Boys were most likely to suffer cuts to the face, while girls were more likely to break or chip their teeth.
Lonzer said many of these injuries may be avoided if parents switch their kids over to regular cups sooner.
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