by Bonnie Lovette, RN, MS, PNP
Q: The weather is getting warmer and windows are opened more frequently. That’s when injuries can happen. What is the way to protect children from window falls?
A: Children under 6 years of age are most at risk for falling out of a window, and unfortunately, we do see children who are seriously injured by window falls. There are simple, but important steps you can take to protect your family. Screens do not prevent falls. They keep bugs out, but not kids in. Install window fall prevention products such as child safety window guards, sash stops, window latches or “Super Stoppers.” Open windows from the top, not the bottom, whenever possible. Windows should not be open more than four inches. Move furniture away from windows too.
Q: When a child is outside biking, skateboarding, or doing some other physical activity, can I do anything to lessen the chance of a sports-related injury?
A: If a child is riding a bike, skateboard, or scooter, or wearing inline or roller skates, wearing a properly fitted helmet is critical. In California, it’s the law! It can also reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent. All children 18 and under must wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet that meets current safety standards. Check to ensure your children’s helmet is worn correctly. The helmet should sit on top of a child’s head in a level position, cover his/her forehead, and not rock forward and back from side to side. This helps the helmet provide extra protection to more vulnerable areas like the back and sides of the head. Insist that your child always ride with the helmet straps buckled. In addition, always make sure your child is wearing correct gear for the activity or sport he/she is playing. This means wearing a helmet, protective pads, mouth piece, etc. Make sure you child drinks plenty of water or electrolyte sports drinks before and during the activity and rests frequently during hot weather.
Q: Are there different safety precautions you should take for different riding activities?
A: Riding on wheels is fun, and whether your child is biking, skateboarding, scooting or skating, he/she needs to learn proper and safe movements and take precautions. Help your child learn the rules of the road including proper hand signals. Teach your child to respect stop signs and signals while riding their bikes. If your child uses a skateboard, scooter or inline skates, they should also avoid these activities in or near public roads and intersections. Also, some families enjoy all-terrain vehicles, but you should never allow children younger than 16 years old to ride on one, even with an adult. Children and teens under 16 are four times more likely to experience an injury on an ATV.
Q: If children are playing at a playground and are well supervised, can they still be at risk for injury?
A: First, make sure your child’s playground is safe and well maintained. If you go to a public playground, report any broken parts, jagged edges, or weather-worn pieces to the organization responsible for the site (a school, park authority, city council, etc.) Ensure all playground equipment, even indoor equipment, has sufficient protective surfacing under and around it. Look for age appropriate equipment and separate play areas for different age groups (2-5 or 5-12). Always use the appropriate play area for the age of your child. Don’t forget to remove necklaces, scarves, clothing with drawstrings and bike helmets when on playground equipment.
Q: You hear often about drownings in summer months. Who is vulnerable and how can drowning be prevented?
A: Drowning is the leading cause of death, disability and injury for children under 5 years of age in California and the second leading cause for children under 5, nationwide. Children should always be actively supervised by an adult while in or around a swimming pool. All toys should be removed from a pool when it is not in use. Toys will attract young children. Keep safety equipment by the pool as well as a phone with emergency numbers. Install self-closing and self-latching gates on isolation fencing around the pool. Be sure the gates are properly maintained and checked frequently. Empty all buckets, containers and inflatable wading pools immediately after use, and store them upside down. Whenever possible, avoid swimming in open water, like lakes or rivers, unless your child is well supervised, wearing a life vest and there is a lifeguard present. Even if your child is well supervised in the water, learn CPR and first aid to ensure you can help if there is an emergency.
Bonnie Lovette, RN, MS, PNP, Injury Prevention Coordinator, Trauma Services, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland