Parents have been stacking up questions on how to keep their children safe when they are sleeping in bunk beds. I don’t want to roll over on this one, so let me provide some information on this subject.
Over 30,000 children go to emergency rooms every year for injuries associated with bunk beds. Injuries are usually due to falls or from horseplay on these beds between siblings or friends. The most common injuries are fractures, lacerations, scrapes, and internal injuries often occurring in children less than 6 years old.
On the other hand, a bunk bed not put together safely can also result in entrapments and more serious injuries.
So what do I recommend?
Ideally, place the bunk bed in the corner of the room so there are walls on two sides. This will lessen the chances of a fall.
Make sure there are guardrails on both sides of a bunk bed, even the one against the wall. Keep these guardrails securely in place no matter how old your child is. Children tend to roll around when they sleep and could fall out of bed.
The space between the guardrail and mattress should not be large enough for a child to get trapped or slip through. The mattress and bedframe should be a tight, safe fit, as well.
Let’s talk about that top bunk.
Do not allow a child under 6 to sleep on the top bunk. There is too high a risk of falling out of bed. And make a rule that only one child can be on the top bunk at any one time.
Also be sure there are crossties under the mattress foundation of that top bunk. This will prevent it from collapsing on the person sleeping below, entrapping them and causing serious injury. And don’t hang anything from the ceiling over the top bunk. This especially true for ceiling fans, which could potentially fall while a child is sleeping.
There should always be a ladder available for a child to climb up to the top bunk. Do not use chairs or other pieces of less sturdy furniture that can topple over. A nightlight should be used so children can see that ladder at night, even with the room lights out.
Most importantly, make sure children know that rough play on bunk beds will not be tolerated. Inform them that will result in loss of use of the bunk bed.
Hopefully tips like these will be more than bunk when keeping your children safe in a bunk bed at night.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and MyNBC 5, or visit the “First with Kids” video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.