(NEW YORK) — Sunny afternoons by the pool, cookouts with family and friends, a family road trip and camp. These are just some of the activities kids partake in during the summer.
But as parents relax, pediatricians are warning them to be on high alert, in a commentary published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
Injuries — ones that parents can prevent — are the leading cause of death in children, according to the report.
One in three pediatric deaths worldwide, and more than 12,000 pediatric yearly deaths in U.S. children, comes from unintentional accidents.
Think of it this way: More than 30 children die every day in the United States. And those who don’t die from their injuries still account for 9.2 million medical visits by children every year.
“Many parents do not realize that injuries are the leading cause of death in children and most of these are preventable,” said ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser, who is also author of Tell Me the Truth, Doctor and a practicing pediatrician.
Pediatricians warn parents to be vigilant, as well as informed.
“The most important thing for the parents to do is to get the appropriate information and possibilities of how to prevent it,” lead commentary author Dr. Michael Höllwarth, professor in the Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Surgery at the Medical University, Graz, Austria, said via email.
Here are the leading causes of unintentional deaths and a few tips to keep your kids safe:
BIGGEST DANGER: Home swimming pools. Thirty percent of all unintentional deaths for toddlers 1 to 4 years old were drownings, most in that backyard we consider so safe. “The most effective means of prevention is to never leave children unsupervised when they are in water,” Hölllwarth said in his article. Other tips include keeping a four-sided fence around larger pools to prevent unsupervised access and using life-jackets when you’re in lakes, ponds or the ocean. And take swimming lessons. Even tiny children can learn to swim to the side and hold on.
BIGGEST DANGER: Indoor cooking. Fire-related injuries are responsible for 9.1 percent of unintentional deaths among kids worldwide, according to the Pediatrics article. Maintain your smoke alarms to give children time to escape. Use stove-guards to keep a child’s curiosity (and hands) from getting in the wrong place, and prevent scalding injuries.
BIGGEST DANGER: For little kids, it’s changing-tables; for bigger kids, it’s summer sports and bikes. Globally, more than 4 percent of pediatric deaths are associated with falls. Almost 2.8 million children a year are injured by them. Bike injuries in children and adolescents add up to 26,000 traumatic brain injuries a year. This one might be the easiest for parents of infants. The routine use of guardrails and stair gates, changing diapers on the floor and using highchairs with safety belts will make a big difference. In older children, make it a family rule to use of basic protective sports gear. That means you wear a bike helmet, too.
Road Traffic Injuries
BIGGEST DANGER: Car accidents. In 2009, more than 1,300 children ages 14 and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). An additional 179,000 children were injured. “Road traffic injuries with cars are among the leading causes of death and permanent disability beyond the age of 5 years,” Hölllwarth wrote. Use age-appropriate child safety seats on those summer road trips. In a study by NHTSA, seats meant a 71 percent reduction in infant injuries; a 54 percent reduction for toddlers. The safest spot? The middle of the back seat. That back seat is the best place for all children younger than 13 years old; front seat airbags can hurt kids. And seat belts are a must — they lead to a 45 percent reduction in crash deaths.
BIGGEST DANGER: Unexpected poisons like citronella oil in Tiki torches, cosmetics and, of course, household cleaners and medications. Globally, poisonings result in 3.9 percent of all deaths, and here at home more than 300 children are treated every day as a result of being poisoned. Two of these children die. Keep cleaning supplies out of sight and, outdoors, be aware of dangerous chemicals left within the reach of curious children.
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