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Car seats can be dangerous outside the car

More than 8,700 infants end up in the emergency room each year because their car seats are used improperly outside the car, according to study presented Monday at the American Academy of Pediatrics' annual meeting in Washington.
Babies are spending more time in car seats, which have saved nearly 9,000 lives in the past three decades, both in and out of the car, says author Shital Parikh, a pediatric orthopedist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Many parents like the convenience of the latest travel systems, which can be used as handheld baby carriers, as well as snap-in seats for the car or stroller, Parikh says.
But car seats aren't a safe way to carry babies for lengthy periods outside the car, experts say.
Most of the injuries in Parikh's study occurred when car seats fell off tables, countertops or other high surfaces. In some cases, babies who weren't securely buckled fell out of the seats. Babies also were injured when car seats flipped over on soft surfaces, such as beds and couches, where infants can suffocate, he says.
Most injuries were to the head, although babies also suffered fractured arms and legs. About half the injuries occurred at home. About 8% of the babies, or about 680 a year, needed to be admitted to the hospital, the study says. Three died during the study period of 2003 to 2007, Parikh says.
Parikh says hospitals, medical societies and manufacturers should warn parents about the dangers of misusing car seats. If parents need to use the seats outside the car, he says, the seats should always be placed on a hard, flat floor, where there is no danger they will topple over.
Spending too much time in car seats can cause other problems.
Physical therapists are seeing more babies with "container syndrome," or weak muscles and flat heads caused by too much time spent lying on their backs, says Colleen Coulter-O'Berry of the American Physical Therapy Association.
And a study in Pediatrics in August found that car seats can make it difficult for babies to get enough oxygen, which led the authors to suggest that the seats be used only while infants are in cars.
Car seats reduce the odds of a baby dying in a crash by 75%, according to a February study in the American Journal of Public Health. Car accidents are the leading cause of accidental death in children over age 1, according to the pediatrics academy.
By Liz Szabo, USA TODAY

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