“Let’s be careful out there,” and in here for that matter. This mantra, going back to a 1980s police drama, Hill Street Blues, resonates to this day. Consider that preventable injuries kill more Canadian children than any single disease, and more youth than all other causes combined: each year in Canada, preventable injuries cause 13,000 deaths, 60,000 disabilities and 3 million emergency room visits.
These figures come from Parachute, a national non-profit organization that describes itself as dedicated to preventing injury and saving lives through education and advocacy. It is also behind Safe Kids Week coming up May 4 to 10. This annual event strives to make us more aware of the frequency and severity of preventable childhood injuries. This year’s theme focusses on cycling and road safety.
Staying safe is an important message to communicate with children. What better way than to start with parents who are role models who influence the behaviours of their children. After all, why wear a helmet on the bike when mom doesn’t? Why stop at intersections if dad seems to just roll through?
There are a number of messages and recommendations aligned with the message of Safe Kids Week, starting with protecting your head: wear a helmet! It should fit properly and be worn as designed because that protection cuts the risk of serious head injury by up to 80%!
Bikes should fit the kid. Make sure that your child’s bike is the right size for her, that the tires are properly inflated and the brakes work as intended. This is a great way to involve children in maintenance and awareness, and it’s fun for them, too. It also helps if your child knows about the rules of the road and understands bicycle safety. Even a four-year-old can learn to stop and look before crossing a road and know to ‘gear up’ before riding (even if he’s too young to be crossing the road alone).
Part of knowing the rules of the road include knowing to ride on the right side, in the same direction as traffic, but also to stay as far right as possible. And kids should have a bell to announce their presence, especially when they are passing.
Though not a focus of the Parachute ‘Week’ we also include trampolines for special attention. A recent study by the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit of children admitted to BC Children’s Hospital found trampoline-related injuries occurred at a rate of 14.1 per 1000 cases treated at BC Children’s Hospital emergency department (no other hospital was tracked).
Of the injuries identified as trampoline-related, fractures were the most common followed by bruises and abrasions and sprains. The most likely points of injury were the ankle, elbow and head.
Sure, trampolines can be dangerous, but we realize they are also a lot of fun. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid injury. Safety increases with smart use: limit trampolines to one person at a time; don’t jump onto or off the trampoline; avoid flips and somersaults which can lead to over-extension of the cervical spine. Active adult supervision is also important.
Summer is a great time to be a kid, but helping them be safe can mean that it’s all fun and games.
Dr. Paul Martiquet is the Medical Health Officer for Rural Vancouver Coastal Health including Powell River, the Sunshine Coast, Sea-to-Sky, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.