Common Childhood Injuries and How You Can Avoid Them

Every day, children are faced with situations that can end in accidental injury. These situations can occur anywhere, whether it's at home, school, or somewhere in between. Accidents may cause anything from minor knee scrapes to fatal injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 9 million children in the United States are treated for accidental injuries yearly, and roughly 9,000 children die because of them. The statistics are even more staggering when it comes to the number of children who die from accidental injuries around the world. The World Health Organizations, or WHO, cites as many as 2,300 global childhood injury deaths on a daily basis, and roughly 830,000 annually.

The most common accidental injuries and deaths in the U.S. are a result of automotive accidents, suffocation, drowning, poisoning, burns, and falls. Vehicle accidents are a leading cause of injury for children of all ages, particularly teenagers. Car accidents cause a range of problems, including head injuries, for example. Motor vehicle injuries can be prevented or reduced by correctly using appropriate child restraints and seat belts and following safe driving rules. Parents can talk with their teens about safe driving and establish rules about what is and is not acceptable behavior when driving.

In addition to motor vehicle accidents, suffocation is high on the list when it comes to childhood accidents. Small children and infants may suffocate from choking on food or small items that are too large for them to fully swallow. In the case of infants, they may be too young to fully lift their head if they are face-down on bedding. To prevent accidental suffocation, parents should lay infants down on their backs, never their stomachs, and remove any stuffed animals, pillows, or plush items from the crib before putting them to bed. Infants should also never sleep in the same bed with other children. When feeding toddlers and young children, cutting food to manageable sizes can prevent choking. Hot dogs, hard candy, and grapes are just a few examples of foods to avoid feeding children under the age of 4 years old. If plastic grocery bags are in the home, people should tie them in knots and throw them away immediately, while unused garbage or food storage bags should be kept in a place where children are unable to reach them. Although they are fun and typically associated with children, balloons are also a source of suffocation and should be kept out of reach before use and disposed of after.

Drowning is yet another way that children are unintentionally injured. There are also more incidents resulting in death than the other leading causes of injury. Children who drown may do so in swimming pools, bathtubs, open toilet bowls, or even unattended buckets that are fully or partially filled with water. To prevent accidental drowning, parents should keep a watchful eye on their children around pools and other bodies of water. Children should never be left unattended while in the bathtub, and toilets should be closed and secured with a safety lock. If living in a home with a pool, there should be a fence around all sides and a gate that self-closes and latches securely. Additionally, any buckets or other items should be emptied immediately after use.

Diligence is also necessary when it comes to preventing childhood poisoning. Poisoning may occur from accidental drug overdose or exposure to toxic solutions such as household bleach or other cleaners. Preventing exposure to poisonous materials can be accomplished in a number of ways, such as keeping medications in a locked cabinet where children and teenagers are unable to gain access without parental permission. Child safety locks can be used to keep kids out of cabinets where cleaners or other solutions are stored; however, these items should ideally be placed up high and out of their reach. When using potentially toxic solutions or cleaners, adults should keep them tightly closed when not in use and put them back in their proper place as quickly as possible.

There are different types of burns that children may accidentally suffer from. This includes heat, cold temperature, electrical, radiation, chemical, and friction burns. Young children often suffer from thermal burns that come from hot bath water, food, overly heated liquids, and hot stove tops. Children who swallow items such as button batteries may suffer from chemical burns to the throat or esophagus, while a child who plays with an electrical outlet may receive an electrical burn. Burn prevention includes testing the temperature of bath water, turning the handles of saucepans so they're out of reach, and keeping children away from candles or anything with flames. Safety covers for electrical outlets and screens around fireplaces are also crucial in homes with young children. Fire alarms and a well-practiced escape plan can help prevent injury from house fires as well.

Falls, like burns, are top sources of concern; in fact, falls cause the most non-fatal injuries, according to the CDC. Falling can be a problem for children of all ages. Riding a bicycle, playing at a playground, walking or playing near stairs, or even climbing onto a bunk bed are some of the many ways that children can fall and injure themselves. Adults or babysitters can inadvertently be the cause of falls when it comes to babies. Infants may suffer from fall-related injuries if accidentally dropped or if they are left momentarily unattended on a bed, changing table, or sofa. Depending on the height from which a child falls, it can result in problems such as broken bones or trauma to the head. To prevent falls from occurring, people should always be attentive when caring for an infant. If young siblings are allowed to hold an infant, it should never be without parental consent and the close supervision of an adult. Wearing a properly fitted helmet can aid in the prevention of injuries due to bicycle-riding, and wood chips or sand can help cushion falls from playground equipment. Placing safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs can also help prevent young children from falling or from playing or climbing up them unsupervised.