Ready for Bunk Beds?
By Kristen J. Gough
Your children may be begging for bunk beds, but making a big purchase like this is not just a matter of money, it's a matter of safety too. Here are some things to consider before you buy.
I still remember the day my older sister and I broke our bunk beds. My mom went downstairs to change the laundry and we were left alone, bored. We turned to jumping on the top bunk for excitement. It wasn't long before my nine-year-old sister and I heard creaking sounds, then a crash as the wood slats supporting the top bunk broke and the flimsy mattress caved. We ended up in a pile of wood and mattress stuffing on the bunk below.
Although we were fine (though grounded for a month!), the experience made me think twice before buying bunk beds for my own girls. Today's bunk beds are much safer than the one my sister and I used as a trampoline, but parents still need to be careful.
Understanding the Risks
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), from 1973 to 1990 more than 70 children under the age of 15 died from accidents involving bunk beds. Although there were some deaths from falls, the majority came from instances where children became entrapped either between the wall and the bed or the bed framework and the mattress. Since 1990, the CPSC estimates that 10 children die each year as a result of bunk bed entrapment—and each year, thousands of children receive hospital emergency room treatment for injuries associated with bunk beds.
A look at it from your child's perspective may help you understand the risks. If a child falls or tries to exit the top bunk, and the bed is near the wall, he could become wedged between the bed and the wall. Similarly, if the child rolls around at night while sleeping, his arm, leg, or head could get caught in the top bunk's guardrails. Further, if the mattress doesn't fit snugly to the bed frame, the child's head could become trapped between the bed frame and the mattress.
Beyond fatalities from bunk beds, Dr. Kenneth A. Haller, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, points out that children can become injured from the top bunk falling on them. "When kids in lower bunks have been injured, it has often resulted from the child in the lower bunk kicking the slats out from underneath the upper mattress, leading to collapse," explains Dr. Haller.