Bunk beds are a common choice for families with multiple children sharing one room — they’re space savers, convenient, and kids love sleeping in them. But it can also be very dangerous and lead to various bunk bed accidents.
Last September 29, 2018, Saturday, an 11-year-old Filipino wushu athlete passed away after falling from the top bunk inside one of the dormitories at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex. He was part of the national training pool for wushu and had recently won a gold medal in the Batang Pinoy Nationals Finals.
According to a report by Spin.ph, Rastafari Daraliay fell off the top bunk bed at around 3 a.m. Saturday morning but went back to sleep after reassuring his teammates that he was okay. But he never woke up again. He was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
In a media briefing held by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Wushu Federation of the Philippines yesterday, the organizations shared that an autopsy had already been conducted on Daraliay’s body, and the results will be available on Wednesday. PSC chairman William Ramirez described the young athlete’s death as an ‘accident.’
Morning news show Unang Hirit reported earlier today that Daraliay’s death certificate stated epidural hemorrhage and skull fracture as the cause of his death. Epidural hemorrhage or hematoma “occurs when a mass of blood forms in the space between your skull and the protective covering of your brain,” according to Healthline.
This tragic accident goes to show how tricky it is to tell the severity of a head injury. It is why it is crucial for parents to teach their kids never to dismiss or ignore fall-related injuries, especially if they hit their head, when they are on their own. If they fall and hit their head, they should be taught to immediately tell a grown-up.
An estimated 20 to 50% of patients with epidural hematoma experience what medical professionals call "lucid interval." He will seem fine or wouldn't even feel any pain, but it is temporary. A few minutes or hours later, his condition will rapidly deteriorate — he may experience loss of consciousness, severe headache, blurred vision, or confusion (even slurred speech). All these symptoms mean he needs to be brought to the emergency room at once.
Here are red flags if your child falls from his bunk bed or an elevated place.
The first thing to do is to check for physical injuries and administer first aid if needed, saysDr. Faith Buenaventura-Alcazaren, M.D.,a pediatrician from Marikina Doctors Hospital and Medical Center. Check the head for bruising or bumps, the abdomen for any sign of enlargement, and his arms and legs if it can move symmetrically and are not limited by pain.
If your child is unconscious or hard to wake, starts vomiting forcefully, and his arms and legs do rhythmic jerking, bring him to the hospital immediately. He may be suffering from a bleed in the brain.
If the fall is higher than a regular bed, and if the injury has high impact (i.e. from jumping), Dr. Buenaventura-Alcazaren advises that you bring your child to the emergency room (ER) for a more thorough evaluation.
According to a 2008 study by Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Center for Injury Research and Policy in Columbus, Ohio, an average of 36,000 bunk bed-related injuries happen annually in the United States. Most of these injuries occur in the head and neck. The accidents are also often worse than an injury from standard beds.
If you are planning on getting a bunk bed for your children, it is best to follow these guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)and the Center for Injury Research and Policy for the safety of your kids:
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Consider the age of your kids.
Many of the bunk bed-related accidents in the study occurred in children under 6 years old. The AAP recommends children below this age should avoid sleeping at the top bunk.
Put it against a wall.
Place bunk beds in the corner of the room so there are walls on two sides. This can help reduce the chances of your child falling out of the bed.
Guard rails help prevent the child from falling or rolling out of the bed. Top bunks must have guard rails on both sides. The upper edge of the guard rails must be at least five inches above the top surface of the mattress. (In the photo accompanying Spin.ph’s report, Daraliay’s bunk bed only had one guardrail at the top bunk, and looked to be below five inches from the top surface of the mattress.)
If there are more than 3.5 inches between the bottom of the mattress and guardrail, add another guard rail board to fill the gap. According to the New York City Department of Health, openings between each guard rail and between the guard rails and the bed frame should not be more than 3.5 inches to prevent the child from being trapped or strangled.
Check for proper support.
The top bunk should be stable. Add extra slats on the frame to support the mattress on the top bunk and prevent it from falling.
Children must be taught to always use the ladder and not other furniture to climb into or out of the bunk bed. (They should also not use the guard rails to lift themselves onto the bed.)
Ladders must be secured to prevent slipping. You can also add a nightlight near the ladder so your kids are able to see properly should they need to get out of bed in the middle of the night.
Talk to your kids and establish a rule that beds are not to be roughhoused on. No jumping on the bed, especially on the top bunk.
Clear the bed.
Don’t let your kids hang belts, ropes, and clothes from the bunk bed. These items could strangle a child. At the same time, remove items that can pose danger from around the bed, like sharp or pointed objects.
It also goes without saying that parents should regularly check on the state of the bunk beds. Ensure that the guardrails, slats, and ladders are properly and securely mounted on the bed frame.
In the event that your kid does fall from the top bunk, or hits his head hard, teach him to always tell an adult (no matter what time it is) so both of you can check whether he's really doing fine or if it merits a visit to the ER.