The Medical Minute: Safe Kids Week aims to prevent injuries

Spring and summer is trauma season. Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital has expert clinicians and is accredited as a pediatric trauma center to care for nearly 700 children injured each year. However, injuries are preventable. In celebration of National Safe Kids Week, Safe Kids Dauphin County is holding events at local elementary schools, community car seat checks and distributing materials and safety devices to families. The focus of Gear Up for Safety reminds kids, especially 10- to 14-year-olds, that they can be injury free by following the 10 Steps to Safety.

National report findings
A comprehensive national report was undertaken by Safe Kids USA in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations with a mission to prevent accidental childhood injury. "Report to the Nation: Trends in Unintentional Childhood Injury Mortality and Parental Views on Child Safety"  examines accidental injury to children in the United States. The report reviews the changes in accidental childhood injury death rates in areas such as motor vehicle occupant injuries, drownings, suffocation (which includes strangulation and choking) and more. Current data is compared to data from 1987 and 1997. The accidental injury death rate of children 14 and under has declined by 45 percent in the United States since 1987, yet accidental injury remains the nation's leading killer of kids, according to a new national report release by Safe Kids USA.

The injuries examined in the report are serious, many resulting in death or permanent disabilities. Many children survive, but live with significant physical and emotional health consequences for a lifetime. The stress on the children, their families and the health-care system cannot be underestimated. In 2000 in the United States, injuries to children 14 and under cost society approximately $58 billion in medical bills, lost wages of the children's caregivers, and more.

"The great strides made over the past 20 years in reducing accidental childhood injuries by Safe Kids USA, the American injury prevention community, parents and governments is reason for optimism," said Susan Rzucidlo, Pediatric Trauma CNS and Safe Kids Dauphin County coordinator. "Yet all of us can do more to create a safer environment for the children of Central Pennsylvania and nationally."

What parents can do
The four leading causes of death from accidental injuries to children 14 and under are suffocation (19 percent), motor vehicle occupant injuries (16 percent), drownings (16 percent) and pedestrian incidents (11 percent). Here are 10 steps to Safety that Safe Kids Dauphin County recommends to parents that could have a major impact on their children's safety:

• Properly secure children under age 13 in a back seat every time they ride in a car.

• Keep children in the right type of car or booster seat until adult lap and shoulder belts fit them correctly.

• Make sure children wear a helmet and other protective gear every time they bike, skate, skateboard or ride a scooter.

• Teach children to cross streets at corners and look left, right and left again before crossing. Make sure children younger than 10 always cross the street with an adult.

• Always keep your eyes on children when they are playing in or near water.

• Always make sure children wear life jackets when riding on boats or playing in or near open bodies of water.

• Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home and outside of every sleeping area. Change the batteries once a year and test them monthly.

• Do not place blankets, pillows or other soft items in a baby's crib. Keep small items such as toy parts, coins, buttons and beads away from children under age 3.

• Keep poisonous items, such as medicines and cleaners, locked away and out of reach of children.

• Do not let children play on stairs, furniture, balconies, roofs, or in driveways, streets or parking lots.

For information about summer safety or other information on preventing injuries, call Dauphin County Safe Kids Coalition, led by Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital at (717) 531-SAFE or visit http://www.usa.safekids.org.

Safe Kids Dauphin County members work to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading killer of children 14 and under. Safe Kids Dauphin County organized in 1994 is led by Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital and is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing accidental injury.

For information or for a copy of the Report to the Nation: Trends in Unintentional Childhood Injury Mortality and Parental Views on Child Safety, visit http://www.usa.safekids.org. The report was funded by an educational grant from Johnson & Johnson.

Contacts: 
Last Updated March 19, 2009