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shopping cartsShopping carts: They’re something we use almost every time we go to the grocery store, but behind their helpful exterior lurks a potential danger. A child in America is treated in an emergency room every 22 minutes for injuries sustained by shopping carts.

According to data from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, 530,494 children were treated in emergency rooms between 1990 and 2011 for cart-related injuries, and despite voluntary safety standards adopted in 2004, the rate of injury is actually climbing.

The vast majority of injuries (more than 70%) are from falls from the cart, followed by running over/into the cart, cart tip-overs, and entrapment of body parts. The most common type of injury was head injury (78%), and researchers found a 200% increase in concussions over the study period. Most of these injuries were in children 4 and younger.

kid shopping cartExperts say that redesigning carts to have seating areas lower to the ground would be safer both because children wouldn’t have as far to fall and because it would lower the cart’s center of gravity, making it less prone to tipping over. Until that happens (and even if it does) here are some ways you can help keep your kids safe:

  • Never prop infant seats on top of shopping carts. (We’ve written about that before). It’s better to place the seat in the basket of the cart, use a separate stroller (which might require another person), use a built-in infant seat, or wear your baby for shopping trips.
  • Make sure your child is buckled in, whether in the regular shopping-cart seat or an integrated infant seat.
  • Choose carts that have seating areas lower to the ground.
  • Never allow children to stand up in the cart.
  • Never allow children to ride or hang off the front, back, or sides of a cart.
  • Stay with your cart and child at all times.

Shopping with little kids (or big ones!) can sometimes be emotionally painful, but don’t let it turn physically painful, too.