The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 20 percent of children annually have an emergency department visit and more than 9 million have unintentional injuries. Too often, these common injuries are easily preventable.
John Muir Health emergency department doctors know all too well that some basic precautions can prevent an incident that causes a trip to the emergency room or urgent care clinic.
An assortment of injuries including bumps, bruises, sprains, strains, and broken bones land Contra Costa children in the hospital.
"An injury-free summer may only be a reality if you keep a sharp eye on your children," says David Birdsall, M.D., medical director of the John Muir Medical CenterSM-Concord Campus Emergency Department.
While that is hard to do, Birdsall says, "if they are on their own, they are much more at risk. You need to help them learn to understand consequences and to think twice, instead of not at all."
Topping the list of common injuries are those involving bikes and skateboards — mostly from riding without proper gear.
"A helmet can literally make the difference between a minor injury and a life-threatening one," says Theo Koury, M.D., medical director of emergency services at John Muir Medical CenterSM - Walnut Creek Campus.
"Protective gear such as knee pads and wrist guards can also prevent broken bones, such as wrist fractures, that can put a child in a cast for six weeks or more," Says Koury. He advises that if a parent knows a child is biking, "go out and actually watch him or her put on the helmet."
Summer means more outdoor activities, and heat can bring serious consequences such as overexertion, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke to the unprepared.
"Team sports, hiking, and just running around in the heat can cause dehydration much quicker than people realize, especially in young children and older adults," says Dr. Koury.
Doctors agree that drinking fluids every 20 minutes is important, especially if you are in the sun for more than an hour. If you feel thirsty, dizzy, or get a headache, then you have probably gone too long. Sunburn can also be a serious threat — so apply sunscreen liberally, multiple times.
"Remember drinks, breaks, and shade," says Dr. Birdsall. He also notes that summer fun can cause children to forget to eat and drink, and that traveling can take children out of their normal healthy routines, sometimes causing dehydration, constipation, and sleep deprivation.
Every summer brings reminders about pool safety. Dr. Koury says you must be sure your pool is secured and that the gate cannot be opened by a child, children must be supervised, and that you need a dedicated pool watcher.
Another predictable issue is trampoline injuries. Many people have trampolines at home — where most injuries occur — and don’t realize how unsafe they are.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics says trampolines should never be used as play equipment in homes, on playgrounds, or at schools. Collisions and falls often cause head and neck injuries or bone breaks.
If you choose to have a trampoline in spite of the risks, you should follow these tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission:
- Adult supervision at all times
- Allow only one person on the trampoline
- Do not allow somersaults, which can cause head and neck injuries
- Place the trampoline away from things that can cause injury, such as trees or other structures
- Forbid children under the age of six from using the trampoline
- Use a trampoline net or enclosure to prevent falls
The CDC reports that injuries due to transportation are the leading cause of death for children. Where your child sits in a car and whether or not your child wears a seat belt can mean the difference between life or death in a car crash.
According to the CDC, child safety seats significantly reduce the risk of death for children (by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers).
Unfortunately, many parents accidently install their children’s safety seats incorrectly. Trauma services' child passenger safety program at John Muir Health reports that 82 percent of car seats the program checks are not used correctly.
Seating your children in the back seat may also protect them from injury. Children who ride in the back seat reduce their risk of serious injury in a car crash by 40 percent, according to the CDC.
In case an injury does occur to your youngster or teen, John Muir Health's two ERs are fully equipped to take special care of children.
In addition, an after-hours pediatric clinic, Pediatric Resource Medical Group, is available at 1479 Ygnacio Valley Road, at the corner of La Casa Via, in Walnut Creek. The phone number, (925) 930-6295, is also an advice line that can help parents decide whether to treat a child at home, visit their pediatrician or urgent care, or go directly to the emergency room. Please note that this clinic is not a John Muir Health facility, and they are contracted with John Muir Physician Network for after-hours pediatric services only.