Unintentional injury is the No. 1 killer of America's children, taking more lives than disease, violence and suicide. Summer – when children are out of school, outdoors and more active – is the most dangerous season for kids.
But 90 percent of injuries to children can be prevented, and Brenner Children’s Hospital, part of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, has some warm-weather safety tips.
Bicycle, skating and scooter safety
“A bicycle helmet is a necessity, not an accessory, and parents can be fined if their child does not wear a helmet,”according to Charles Turner, M.D., a pediatric surgeon at Brenner Children’s Hospital. North Carolina laws require that children under the age of 16 wear a bicycle helmet.
Helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent. In addition, parents should:
• Buy reflective clothing, stickers, bike reflectors, and bicycle lighting for an older child who will be riding or skating at dawn or dusk.
• Encourage children to use a horn or bell, which can warn motorists and pedestrians of their presence.
• Make sure your child wears elbow pads, wrist guards and knee pads to prevent other injuries.
• Encourage children to keep speed down, which is essential to preventing injuries.
• Not allow children to jump over ramps or to ride in a street with traffic.
• Closely supervise children to make sure they have control and can ride safely.
Lawnmower injury prevention
When children are injured in a lawnmower accident, they can lose fingers, toes, hands and feet, according to Thomas Pranikoff, M.D., a pediatric surgeon at Brenner Children’s Hospital. Many require extensive surgery – and all can be prevented.
• Children should be at least 16 years old to operate a riding lawnmower and 12 years old to operate a push mower.
• Children under 6 years of age should be kept indoors during mowing and should not be allowed to ride as passengers on mowers. Never lift children onto a running riding mower.
• Children should wear shoes that cover their toes and feet and should be watched carefully. Children should never touch a lawnmower that has been recently used, and adults should never pour gasoline into a hot lawnmower.
All-Terrain Vehicle/Motorcycle safety
Children under 16 should not drive or ride on an all terrain vehicles (ATV) or a motorcycle, according to Turner. “These vehicles offer no protection in the event of an accident,” Turner said. “In the case of a sudden stop, the child continues to go forward only to be stopped by a moving object such as a car or truck, or by a stationary object such as a tree.
“No amount of protective gear can prevent injury. Children are precious and deserve our guidance and protection. The risk of death or permanent injury is too great to allow them to ride on ATVs or motorcycles.”
Farm machinery safety
Children under 16 should not drive or ride on farm machinery, according to Turner. “Like ATVs, these vehicles offer no protection against an accident,” Turner said. “When children are injured in a farm machinery incident, they oftentimes lose fingers, toes, hands and feet, require extensive surgery and a lengthy recovery.”
Seat-belt/car seat safety (year-round)
Infants should ride in rear-facing safety seats until they are at least 20 pounds and 1 year old, according to Donna Joyner, R.N., the SAFE Kids coordinator at Brenner Children’s Hospital.
• Infants should never be placed in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger-side air bag. Children older than 1 year who weigh less than 80 pounds and/or less than 4’9” tall should ride in forward-facing child safety seats.
• Children should ride in a booster seat if they are less than 8 years old and weigh less than 80 pounds. Your child is ready for a seatbelt once the seatbelt falls across the chest without restricting the neck and the lap belt crosses the pelvis and not the abdomen. All children must wear a seat belt once they outgrow their booster seat.
• North Carolina law requires that a child wear a seat belt in the back seat of a car. Children under the age of 12 should never ride in the front seat of a vehicle with an airbag.
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About Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center: Wake Forest Baptist is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital, Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Brenner Children’s Hospital. It is licensed to operate 1,282 acute care, rehabilitation, psychiatry and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report. Brenner Children’s was named one of the top children’s hospitals in the nation by Child magazine.