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Quick reference medical handouts used by Pediatric offices

Accidents Happen, but can be Minimized or Prevented

Today, 63 American children under the age of 20 will die as the result of an injury. In addition, during the next year one out of five children in the U.S. will suffer an injury that will require an emergency department visit or hospital admission.

Childhood injury is a disease like no other. There are no vaccines or antibiotics for this killer. The disease strikes randomly, suddenly, and usually without warning. It is the number one killer of children living in this country. More children and adolescents die because of injury than all other childhood diseases combined. In addition, childhood injury is the leading cause of serious childhood disability and causes the loss of more productive years of life than heart disease, cancer or stroke.

Perhaps the single most important thing parents can do is to stop accepting accidents as an inevitable part of childhood. While accidents will happen, childhood injuries can be prevented. For example, parents may not be able to keep their child from falling off a jungle gym, but they can take steps to ensure that the surface under the equipment is less dangerous. Similarly, parents may not be able to prevent an automobile accident, but parents can make sure their child is safely secured in the car.

Of the 63 childhood deaths today from injury, 27 will be from motor vehicle crashes. Not surprisingly, the incidence is highest among adolescent males, and alcohol is a factor in almost half of these deaths. Parents must protect their teenagers from motor vehicle accidents by instilling in their children the dangers of drinking and driving. Too many children are being killed by this deadly combination.

While it is Florida State Law that all children must use a child restraint or seat belt while the car is in motion, many parents still do not use car seats for their infants and toddlers or seat belts for children. Properly used, car restraint devices are the most effective means of reducing the risk of motor vehicle injuries. Properly installed and used, child safety seats will reduce the risk of death and serious injury to children by 70 percent. Preventing the leading cause of childhood injury is not even complicated- it takes only a few seconds to buckle a child in a car seat or seat belt. And parents should not to forget to set a good example by using their own seat belt as well!

A firearm will unintentionally kill 10 American children today. More than 90 percent of firearm incidents involving children occur in or around the home. Most of these unfortunate incidents occurred in the room where the firearm was stored. Guns are six times more likely to kill or injure a member of the owner’s household than they are to be successfully used in protecting that household. If parents feel it is necessary to keep a gun in the house, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

  1. never keep a loaded gun in the home or car,
  2. store guns and ammunition separately,
  3. always treat guns as if they are loaded and ready to fire, and (
  4. never allow children access to guns.

Another 7 children will die today from mishaps involving motorcycles, mopeds, minibikes, snowmobiles, jet skis and all-terrain vehicles. Ironically, parents worry about their newly licensed 16 year old when they drive the family car, but show little concern when even younger children operate these "recreational" vehicles. In many ways, these vehicles are more dangerous than a car since they offer little or no protection for both driver and passengers. Certain safety measures can make these recreational vehicles safer. These include: children under 16 should not be allowed to operate them, children who are allowed to operate these vehicles should receive intensive instruction, and helmets should always be worn.

Swimming, especially in Florida, is an activity meant for fun and enjoyment. Sadly, 5 families will lose a child today from drowning. Those children at greatest risk are toddlers 1 to 3 years of age. Meanwhile, for every drowning death, many more children are hospitalized and one-third of the near drowning victims sustain severe, permanent brain damage.

Simple, common sense preventive measures could have saved many of these children. Some of these include:

  1. appropriate supervision - parents should never allow their child to swim alone.
  2. installing a four-sided, 4-foot fence with latchgates around the pool
  3. teaching adolescents the dangers of alcohol, which plays a contributing role in 20-30 percent of all drownings.
  4. Removing any large buckets filled with liquid, particularly 5-gallon containers.
  5. Never leaving young children alone in the bathtub, not even for short periods.
  6. Learning the fundamentals of CPR could turn out to be a lifesaver in case of an emergency.

Today, 4 more children and adolescents will die in our streets after being struck by a car or truck. Children are unable to judge the distance and speeds at which cars are moving, and young children have one-third less peripheral vision than adults. Ironically, many of these deaths occur in the child’s own driveway. Parents can prevent many of these deaths by:

  1. not letting children under the age of 6 cross the street alone.
  2. insisting they play away from traffic.
  3. stressing caution around driveways.
  4. prohibiting children from using skateboards, roller blades, wagons or bikes in the street.

Each year approximately 400,000 children and adolescents suffer injuries from fires and burns. Some 23,000 of these injuries require hospitalization. Today, 3 American children will die because of fires and burns. The best preventive measures families can take is to install smoke detectors. Of course, smoke detectors are of little use unless they are operational so parents must check smoke detector batteries once a month and change them once a year. In addition, parents should teach children what to do in case of a fire.

Scalding burns, however, are more common than fires. Most of these children are burned in their own homes by hot tap water, hot drinks and hot foods. Each day some 100 children are rushed to hospital emergency rooms for treatment of scald burns and half of these youngsters are under the age of 5. To protect children from these injuries, parents must make sure that these dangerous situations are not allowed to exist. Children must be monitored closely in the kitchen and bathroom and hot substances must be kept out of their reach.

Falls will cause another 3 children to lose their lives today. Most falls occur in infants and toddlers from stairs and steps, open windows, beds, tables, playground equipment, baby carriages and strollers. Most deaths from falls occur among the poor from deficiencies in the environment, including aging or deteriorating housing and play areas, poor supervision and improperly maintained stairways.

A bicycle accident will take the lives of 2 more children today. Every 66 seconds, another child is treated for a bicycle injury and most involve a blow to the head. While children who wear bicycle helmets reduce their risk of head injury by 85 percent, fewer than 10 percent wear helmets. Therefore, parents should insist that their children wear helmets when bicycling and adults should set an example by wearing a helmet as well when bicycling.

A poison will kill 2 American children today. It is estimated that there are more than two million "poison exposures" each year in this country, and nine out of 10 poisons occur in the home. Parents must pay close attention to where medicine and household products are stored in their homes. Safety latches for kitchen, bathroom, and workshop cabinets can help keep harmful products up and away from children.

Sixty-three American children will die today from a preventable injury. There is no greater pain for a parent than losing a child or having to watch a youngster suffer through a life-threatening injury. Parents can greatly reduce the incidence of injuries in their child by not only changing their child’s environment and supporting the enforcement of laws that protect children. Remember, preventing childhood injury is no accident.


As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your child’s pediatrician. Please read our full disclaimer.

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