The sun is out, the days are longer, the weather is warmer and thank heavens, we can finally send the kids outside without fear of frostbite! Whether they’re back to soccer, hitting the bike trails, or even stepping up to mow the lawn for that first time, it’s time to talk safety. With the warmer weather and outdoor activities, the chances of injuries also go up. We talked with Stefanie Shustek, MD, emergency room physician at Belton Regional Medical Center, part of HCA Midwest Health, about common injuries that sends kids to the ER and ways you can prevent them.
Be a good sport
Not surprisingly, given the number of young athletes, sports-related injuries are among the top reasons for ER visits among kids.
“About every 25 seconds, or 1.35 million times a year, a young athlete suffers a sports-related injury severe enough to go to the ER,” says Dr. Shustek. “At HCA Midwest alone, we see many kids with sports-related injuries. They can include everything from head injuries and concussions to ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and meniscus injuries in the knees to shoulder and elbow injuries.”
Some tips on helping your kids avoid serious injuries:
- Early intervention: Some kids start competitive sports as early as age 7. Be prompt about seeking treatment with injuries to help prevent something more serious down the line.
- Pain is a signal: All too often our kids think that playing through the pain means they’re tough. Not so. Playing through the pain can lead to fatigue, poor technique and ultimately more severe injuries. Make sure your kids understand that they should talk with you and seek help if experiencing pain or something that just doesn’t feel right.
- Stretch and stretch again: Whatever the activity, encourage your kids to stretch and warm up in advance of a game, performance or practice. This important step improves flexibility, endurance and strength.
- Sleep well: Getting plenty of rest is key for young athletes. According to the National Sleep Foundation, getting enough quality sleep is very important for their energy, coordination, muscle growth, recovery, and repair, as well as their mental focus and ability to successfully manage stress.
- Water Power: Make sure your young athlete is hydrated and drinks plenty of water. Sports drinks that replace electrolytes lost in sweat are good as well.
Stay a jump ahead of injuries
Trampolines – fun as they are – can also be extremely dangerous. Hundreds of thousands of children are injured on trampolines each year. And the more people on a trampoline, the more dangerous it is. If your children use a trampoline, here are a couple of safety tips:
- Insist on adult supervision at all times.
- Allow only one jumper on the trampoline at a time. If there are going to be two, make sure they stay separated.
- Do not allow flips or somersaults.
- Make sure the protective padding and netting is in place and in good condition.
The lawn mower is not a toy car
Spring is time to crank up the lawn mower. If you don’t already know, lawn mowers are extremely dangerous for young and even older children. According to Dr. Shustek, lawn mowers are the number one reason for amputations, and each year many children are severely injured by them. In the U.S. alone, 800 children are run over by riding mowers or small tractors each year, and more than 600 of those incidents result in amputation. Most of these injuries can be prevented:
- Don’t let children under 12 use a walk-behind mower.
- Don’t let your kids play on the lawn mower or tractor, even if turned off.
- Make sure small kids or pets aren’t nearby when you mow.
- Don’t allow children under 16 to use a riding lawnmower alone.
- Never have a child on your lap when using a riding lawn mower.
- Always make sure your child or teen has proper shoes when using the lawn mower – boots or closed-toe shoes, NEVER flip-flips or sandals.
According to Dr. Shustek, last year alone, HCA Midwest Health treated more scooter injuries than probably the last five years combined. Injuries from scooters, particularly electric scooters, include broken wrists, fractured arms, bruised or broken ribs, even head injuries. Because it’s a motorized vehicle, take safety steps:
- Wear safety gear like elbow and knee pads, and helmets to help protect you if you fall.
- Start off slowly.
- Just like driving, put down the distractions like your phone or coffee.
- Ride solo on the scooter and don’t let your kids double up either.
- NEVER DRINK while operating an electric scooter.
Poisoning is a concern all year, but in spring we see products become more easily accessible to children, especially young children. As you start gardening, remember the fertilizers or poisons for outdoor use that were once stored deep in the garage or house come out in spring. If you have young children or grandchildren, under 8, post the National Poison Center number by each phone in your home, in the garage where the supplies are, and program it into your cell phones: 1-800-222-1222.
ER expertise for kids
HCA Midwest Health, Kansas City’s leading healthcare and emergency care provider, is home to 11 emergency rooms, including Overland Park Regional Medical Center’s pediatric-dedicated ER with the latest technology to treat children. HCA Midwest Health hospitals beat the national average for pediatric ER readiness and treat more than 305,000 kids each year.