It’s one of those milestone moments every parent gets excited about – baby’s first few steps.
Developmentally, your little one may start walking any time from nine months, although some may take double that time.
Parents do whatever they can to encourage muscle development through tummy time so crawling can become standing and then walking – and for many, a walking ring has been seen as the ideal tool to help them along.
However, evidence is mounting that these walking aids may not be the way to go, as statistics compiled by Netcare emergency department suggest walking rings potentially pose serious injury risks to infants.
Netcare says 47 babies, at an average age of eight months, were treated for injuries from walking ring accidents ranging in severity from minor to critical over the past eight years at their emergency departments.
“Of these, 4% had been critically injured, and 72% had serious to moderate injuries, with the remaining 24% of babies sustaining minor to moderate injuries,” says Netcare’s national quality and systems manager for trauma and emergency, Rene Grobler.
“This illustrates that the walking ring is by no means harmless.”
And this is why Netcare’s national trauma injury prevention (TIP) programme, which aims to reduce the risks of preventable accidents, is alerting parents to be aware of the potentially life-threatening accidents caused by walking rings.
These devices allow babies to propel themselves in any direction very quickly and, in a blink of an eye, your child could be sent careening down the stairs or their heads bashing against a wall, Rene says.
“The wheels on walking rings are usually very basic and may hook or get stuck on carpets or furniture or break easily, adding further potential for accidents.”
Even if parents are closely supervising their babies, the fast and uncontrolled movement of a walking ring makes it difficult to prevent injuries that can happen unbelievably quickly, she adds.
“Most of the
injuries recorded were to the babies’ head or face, and these injuries can be
especially serious at such a young age. Childhood head injuries can be very
serious with potentially lasting consequences, and medical attention should
always be sought immediately,” Rene advises.
There are so many accidents waiting to happen. For example, babies looking for something to pull themselves along could be burnt by grabbing an electrical cable or tablecloth and upsetting a hot appliance or pan over them.
The design of some devices also poses a danger.
“Another risk when it comes to space-saving folding walking rings is that the mechanism may fail while in use, causing it to collapse and potentially resulting in injury to the baby,” Rene says.
She also questions whether the devices actually do what they claim – aid walking.
“It has also been suggested that a walking ring may not be ideal, as stumbling, falling and getting back up are part of normal development. Babies also learn a lot simply from exploring their environment with their hands before they are able to walk,” she says.
It’s important parents know about these risks so they can make good choices for their children.
“Awareness is a very powerful tool for helping to protect children from harm,” adds Netcare’s general manager for emergency, trauma, transplant, and corporate social investment, Mande Toubkin.
“If even one child can be spared injury because their parents and caregivers were made aware of the dangers associated with walking rings, this could make a big difference in that child’s future.”