Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Injury - The Greatest Killer of Children

Category: Child Care


External injury is the greatest single killer of our children. In the year 1988, over 22,000 children died from accidental injuries throughout the United States. Preventing this type injury is a major goal of the Louisiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and is highlighted on National Child Health Day which is Monday, October 7 1991. The greatest cause of death from external injuries involves motor vehicle accidents.

Make sure your children are buckled up and use proper seat restraints. Prepare your teenagers with safe driving courses. Teach your teens the dangers of drinking and driving. Never let children ride in the back of a truck where they are accidents waiting to happen should the truck have to turn suddenly or end up in any kind of collision.

Other major causes of death and serious injury to our children in our state and our society include: drowning, house fires, pedestrian traffic accidents, homicides, suicides, accidental shootings, accidental and intentional fire arm injuries, aspiration or choking on a small object in the throat, bicycle injury, suffocation and head injuries from numerous causes. What can we do to decrease these preventable accidents and injuries?

Concerning drowning we can always attend our children when they are around water, whether it is a bathtub or a large pail containing water, in the house or outside and particularly when they are around swimming pools, ponds or rivers. We can teach our children how to swim and make sure they always wear appropriate life saving equipment when boating.

House fires and hot water scalding can be prevented by having fire alarms throughout our houses and setting the thermostat lower on our hot water heaters to prevent accidental scalding in bathtubs.

Fire arm accidents can be avoided by never having loaded guns in or around our homes and by teaching our older children appropriate fire arm safety.

Bicycle accidents, a common cause of head injuries, can be prevented by having our children wear safety helmets and by teaching them basic bike safety. Small children should not be sent out on the roads on three or four wheelers unattended or without helmets. Anything that rolls and moves fast, whether it is a skateboard or a pair of skates, can lead to potentially serious injury and appropriate padding and head gear will help to prevent these injuries. Good supervision always helps particularly with young children.

Suffocation and aspiration usually occur in small children around age two by wrapping a cord around their neck or by placing a small hard object or piece of food in their throat. Small children under age two should not be given any hard, small food such as nuts or even chewable vitamins or medicines because of their risk of aspiration. Anything that has the capacity to wrap around the infants neck can lead to suffocation so be on guard for numerous apparently innocent things in your infants crib or play environment.

Poisoning is a rare cause of death but a very common cause of serious injury in our children and can be avoided by always locking medicines in a high cabinet. Also, we should lock away or place out of our children's disposal, cleaning solvents which are usually found under the sink in the kitchen and any potentially poisonous compounds in our kitchen bathroom or garage which curious toddlers frequently want to taste. Lye, which is used to clean our sinks, is one of the most dangerous poisons causing severe burns if ingested by a small child. Simple things like alcohol, peroxide and common bathroom ingredients can be dangerous to small children as well. It is wise to keep a few ounces of syrup of ipecac which can be obtained over the counter from your pharmacist. This can be used to induce vomiting in case your child does accidentally get into medicines or dangerous poisons. Always call your pediatrician, emergency room or poison control center first just to be sure that it is safe to induce vomiting for the particular poison ingested.

Any parent of a small child finds out very rapidly that, once they become mobile, the house must be child-proofed. This includes covering electrical outlets, padding sharp corners on coffee tables and appliances, keeping electrical bathroom appliances and sharp objects, such as razors, out of reach and tying electrical cords and drapery cords out of children's reach. Also watch out for peeling paint (particularly if it is an old house since lead-based paint may have been used), and open windows from which a child may fall. Being a parent of a small child is very tough and energy-consuming but it is certainly better to prevent all these injuries than to have to deal with them once they've occurred.

Good luck to parents of children of all ages in helping to decrease our Louisiana childhood injuries to within the national statistics and stop leading the country in accidental deaths and injuries.