WEDNESDAY, March 1, 2023 (HealthDay News) — While adult bed rails are marketed with safety in mind, they need to be used with caution, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises.

“Many death and injury reports related to entrapment and falls for adult portable bed rail products and hospital bed rails have been reported to the FDA and the CPSC [U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission],” the FDA said on a new webpage. Bed rails should be used with care, especially for older adults and people with altered mental status, physical limitations, and certain medical conditions, the FDA advised.

The FDA regulates bed rails that are sold for medical purposes. They might be used to help someone who is disabled, injured, or recovering from surgery to transfer in and out of bed and to reduce the risk for falling or fracture.

Those not marketed for medical purposes are instead considered consumer products and are under the jurisdiction of the CPSC. Sometimes, these types of equipment are called side rails, bed side rails, half rails, safety rails, bed handles, bed canes, assist bars, grab bars, and adult portable bed rails.

The new FDA webpage explains some of the risks associated with bed rails and offers some safety advice. Bed rails typically are divided into three distinct types, according to the FDA. There are portable bed rails for adults, portable bed rails used for children, and hospital bed rails that are attached to a hospital or medical bed. Adult portable bed rails are not designed as part of the bed by the manufacturer but are instead attachable and removable. They may be used at home or in long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes.

While some rails run along the full length of the bed, others are shorter. Hospital bed rails are meant to be either part of or an accessory to a hospital bed or other FDA-regulated bed. Portable bed rails for children are meant typically for those ages 2 to 5 years who can get in and out of an adult-size bed without help. They are considered consumer products.

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