Summer is a time to relax and have fun with your friends and family but you have to be aware of the risks and know how to protect your children. Unintentional injuries or “accidents” remain the number one reason children ages 14 and under are injured or killed.
Chad Hamner, M.D., medical director of Trauma at Cook Children’s, said in the summer his team see an increase in children injured:
- In motor vehicle crashes
- While riding bikes/skateboards/scooters
- By lawn mowers
- And while walking or riding their bikes and being hit by cars
Dr. Hamner advises parents to never allow their child ride unrestrained or improperly restrained, not even for a minute. Car seats and seat belts protect us but they must be used correctly. Statistics show that 95 to 98 percent of car seats are misused.
“Take the time to have your car seat checked by a certified child passenger safety technician. It’s worth the time,” Dr. Hamner said. “With children out of school the families tend to be on the move more but it’s when the child isn’t buckled up in the appropriate restraint that we see more injuries.”
With the nice weather and more spare time on their hands, kids are often out riding their bikes during the summer. Head injuries are a major concern because they can have devastating results yet are easily preventable.
Dr. Hamner said parents and their children need to know and enforce that anyone on “wheeled equipment” must use a helmet. The use of a helmet can reduce the risk of head injuries by 85 percent, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.
“Head injuries are often devastating and can often have long-term effects on the life of your child and your family,” Dr. Hamner said. “Although we see broken bones, cuts and even internal injuries, we worry most about the injuries to a child’s brain.”
Dr. Hamner said parents should make sure their child knows the rules of the road and follows them.
“Teach your child to watch for cars pulling in or backing out of driveway,” he said. “Never stop or play behind a car. There are blind spots when backing up and even with back up cameras the driver can be distracted and may not see the child and back over them.”
Cook Children’s has also treated a number of lawn mower accidents recently. “This year has been especially tough,” Dr. Hamner said. “Not only have we seen an increase in the number of injuries due to lawn mowers but the injuries have been much more severe. We have seen amputations of the feet, legs and even impalements from debris thrown from the mower.”
Amputations happen when a child is riding on a mower with an adult and falls off. The automatic cut off isn’t activated because the adult is still sitting on the seat. Never allow a child to ride on a mower with you. Dr. Hamner also warns parents to not allow children outside if the mower is on. They can run and slip and the driver may run over them or they can be impaled by wires, rocks or debris thrown from the mower.
Pedestrian safety is also a concern during the warmer weather because more kids are out and playing. Studies show that a child does not have the cognitive ability to safely cross the street by themselves until 10 years of age. Dr. Hamner offers the following tips:
Teach your child to cross at the cross walk or intersection, never in the middle of the street or from between cars.
- Always stop, look and listen but in addition to this WAIT for the car to stop and the driver to motion to you that it is safe to cross. Often patients say, “But I saw the driver.” Unfortunately drivers may be looking in the general direction of the child but are distracted and don’t actually “see” the child.
- As a driver, always make sure you stop and motion to the pedestrian that it’s safe to cross.
- “Texting and driving is big in the news but we are also seeing children/teenagers that are distracted while on their cell phones and they are injured while walking or riding their bike,” Dr. Hamner said. “Cities are now looking into laws around texting and walking.”