Avoid the ER This Summer: Doctors Share Child Safety Tips
Here are a few of the most common mishaps, and how to make sure your child stays safe:
When school’s out in the summer, it’s the perfect time for swimming, biking, and barbecues, but unfortunately it’s also a time when doctors see a lot of children in the emergency room with injuries that can easily be avoided. Here are a few of the most common mishaps, and how to make sure your child stays safe:
Lawn mower injuries: “A lot of people like to ride on the lawnmower with their toddler sitting on their lap, but the toddler can fall off and get very badly injured,” says Geoffrey Hays, MD, a resident in emergency medicine and pediatrics at Indiana University Health, who points out that ride-on mowers are basically cars with giant rotating blades attached to them. In fact, according the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, about 17,000 children are seriously injured each year by lawn mowers. Dr. Hays has seen everything from broken bones and eye injuries (from rocks and gravel shooting up out of the mower) to deep lacerations that need to be surgically repaired. Dr. Hays advises parents to keep small children far away from lawn mowers, and to wait until they are 12 to operate a push mower or 16 to drive a riding one.
Drowning in backyard pools: Among children ages 1 to 14, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death after car crashes, and most of those deaths occur in home swimming pools. It only takes a few inches of water to pose a danger, says Dr. Hays. “We often hear the same story: The parent went inside to answer the phone or the doorbell, and only left the baby outside in the kiddie pool for two minutes, but it only takes two minutes for a baby to drown,” he says. To keep your summertime splashing safe, never leave a child unsupervised, even for a minute, and empty out all kiddie pools when not in use. Dr. Hays also recommends that kids sign up for swim lessons as soon as they’re ready, and parents take a CPR class through the Red Cross or your local YMCA.
Fireworks accidents: According to the United States Consumer Products Safety Commission, around 230 people go to the ER every day in the weeks surrounding Independence Day with fireworks-related injuries. “Kids like to hold them and point them at each other, and they can get burns on their hands and blast injuries to their face,” says Dr. Hays. Even those seemingly harmless sparklers can reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit—as hot as a blowtorch—causing major burns. Children should never handle fireworks, says Dr. Hays, and adults should never handle them while drinking alcohol.
Bike accidents: Fewer than half of Americans wear helmets when riding bikes, according to the Centers for Disease Control. This leads to more than 26,000 children suffering devastating brain injuries every year. “Make it a strict family rule—you do not ride your bike, go rollerblading or skateboarding without a helmet, period,” says Dr. Hays. Follow these simple rules, and you can spend your summer enjoying the sun and fun, rather than spending time in the emergency room, says Dr. Hays.