Public baby high chairs have more germs than a public toilet

If you are like most new parents, you are hyper-aware of all possible dangers and have taken every step to ensure that your little bundle of joy will be safe in any circumstance. Guests are given hand sanitizer and face masks if they might cough, car seat straps are double checked for proper fit, bottles and binkies are sanitized between each use and clothes are washed in special detergent before wear. While these steps are all great ways to protect your child, there can be unseen dangers lurking in the places that you least expect. In fact, one of the biggest culprits can be sitting right in your own kitchen: the baby high chair.

Happy young baby boy in High Chair.

Happy young baby boy in High Chair.

High Chair Dangers

Using a high chair at home or in a restaurant is a great way to keep your child upright and ready for a meal. It can also keep squirmy toddlers confined to make feeding times easier. While these are all logical benefits, there are several risks of high chair use that many new parents are not aware of. These can include injuries from falling as well as diseases from hidden germs.

Germs

You probably use hand sanitizer on your baby’s hands when you eat out, but placing your child in a high chair can introduce a host of new germs. The Daily Mail used swabs to test the high chairs in 30 different restaurants and made a startling discovery – there were several times more germs on a baby’s high chair than on the average public toilet.

In general, public toilets harbor eight bacteria per square centimeter. The average high chair among those tested was home to 147 bacteria per square centimeter. Some restaurants boasted high chairs with up to 1,200 bacteria in each square centimeter. A few of the germs found included E-coli. Staph aureus and enterococcus feacalis. Another study found that 60 percent of the trays on high chairs were contaminated with Coliforms, a certain type of bacteria that is left from soil, unwashed vegetables, raw meat and fecal matter.

While most restaurants will ensure that any spills are wiped off of high chairs after use, researchers reported that sometimes the cleanest looking seats actually held the most germs. The seat cushions proved to be the biggest culprit for harboring bacteria. Since young children generally eat with their hands while in high chairs, they are likely putting those germs straight into their mouths.

What You Can Do

Many parents have found that the same covers used in grocery store shopping carts can work on restaurant high chairs to protect their baby’s health. You can also use a thin blanket to ensure your child does not touch any surface of the high chair, but the best advice experts can give is to thoroughly wash everyone’s hands before and after eating. If possible, you can even keep the child in his or her car seat or on your lap during the meal.

Baby foot on restaurant baby high chair.

Baby foot on restaurant baby high chair.

Falls

First, we’ll talk about falling. The Atlantic reports that one child will go to the emergency room every hour after a fall from a high chair, totaling 9,400 children each year. This number rose over 20 percent from the years 2003 to 2010, signaling the need to make some changes. While a fall can result in a simple scrape or bruise, bone fractures and brain injuries are also possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the highest rate of emergency room visits for traumatic brain injuries occurs in those who are under four years old. Many of these injuries are due to falls, some from high chairs.

What You Can Do

Some experts suggest that parents place their children on the floor and forego high chairs altogether. If this seems extreme, there are other options you can choose to protect your baby’s health, including the following:

  • Place the high chair at a lower height. The farther your child falls, the more likely he or she will be injured and the more severe the injuries may be.
  • Do not place a child in a high chair until he or she is able to sit without support.
  • Secure wheel locks anytime the high chair is in use.
  • Check high chair recalls. If you have a damaged or defective high chair, your baby is more likely to suffer a fall. You can check the government’s official website for recalls.
  • If you buy your high chair secondhand, be sure that it has a 5-point adjustable harness and that all clips are in perfect condition. Tighten all screws and bolts and check for any cracks or tears.
  • Strap your child in correctly. Today.com states that two-thirds of parents who knew what their child was doing before the fall reported that they were standing or climbing in the chair. Children can also slip or wriggle out of loose straps, so be sure they are fitted tight, especially the crotch strap.
  • Be sure your high chair has a sticker from the American Society for Testing and Materials or the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association to prove that it has been tested and approved for safety standards.
  • Keep away anything that the child can use to pull, push or kick the chair over.

Maintaining safety can be a little harder when you are not at home. If you are in a restaurant and use a baby high chair, be sure that is has proper, working straps. If it doesn’t, feel free to ask the server for a new one.

Burns

Burns are another danger for babies who are in high chairs. If you push your child up to the table so she or she can eat with the rest of the family, be sure that there is no way a burn could occur. Make sure all pan handles are out of reach as well as any containers of hot food. Spills can also burn a baby, so it’s better to keep any hot liquids off the table.

While high chairs offer a host of benefits to parents, they also carry a fair amount of risks. By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to avoid danger and keep your baby safe. For more tips and tricks from trusted parents, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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