Summertime for many kids and adolescents means the excitement of water activities, fun in the sun and outdoor sports! Yet summer is also known as “trauma season” among pediatric experts like Dr. James Pierog, emergency medicine specialist, CHOC Children’s emergency department. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, a leading children’s safety organization, summer season represents millions of emergency room visits by children 14 and younger due to unintentional injuries, many resulting in death.
To help avoid unintentional injuries, Dr. Pierog recommends that parents and caregivers be on high alert and supervise children extra closely. The following are the top injuries Dr. Pierog and his team see in the CHOC Children’s emergency room (ER) during the summer season:
The risk of head injury is high in adolescents and especially common in the spring and summer months with popular outdoor activities such as bicycle riding, in-line skating and skateboarding. The injury can be as mild as a bump, bruise or laceration, or can be moderate to severe due to a concussion, deep cut or open wound, fractured skull bone(s), or from internal bleeding and damage to the brain. Dr. Pierog sees many head injuries resulting from soccer balls, baseballs and softballs directly hitting the head. In addition, head injuries are common among toddlers due to their uncoordinated muscle mass. Dr. Pierog advises a child receive immediate medical attention should the following occur:
• Vomiting more than a few times
• Alteration in mental state
• Increased irritability, fussiness
• A seizure
• Weakness in parts of the body, such as in an arm or leg
Wearing a helmet whenever riding a bicycle, in-line skates, or a skateboard should be an automatic habit. Helmets should fit properly on your child’s head and also be fastened correctly – a properly-fastened and fitting helmet does not move around on the head. Worn properly, helmets are effective in preventing severe head injuries. For tips on preventing brain injury and how to properly fit a helmet, check out this video: http://www.choc.org/video/index.cfm?vid=40
Children may get minor cuts, wounds, and lacerations to the face while engaging in play or sports activities. Most of these injuries can be handled at home with simple first-aid treatment. Seek immediate medical attention for cuts and wounds of the face if:
• Bleeding heavily and do not stop after 5 to 10 minutes of direct pressure.
• If the injury is on the eyelids or involve the eyes.
• Wound is deep or longer than 1/2 inch.
• Injury is caused by a puncture wound, or dirty or rusty object or embedded with debris such as dirt, stones or gravel.
• Caused by an animal or human bite.
• Excessively painful, or if there’s a possibility of a fracture or head or bone injury.
• Showing signs of infection such as increased warmth, redness, swelling or drainage.
Prevent facial injuries by teaching your child the following:
• Not to poke or place objects in the ears or nose
• Not to walk or run while holding an object in his/her mouth
• Not to suck or chew on hard, sharp or pointed objects
• Wear protective eye, ear, or face guards for sports activities that could cause injury
Wrist and Elbow Fractures
A fracture is a partial or complete break in the bone and can result from falls, trauma, or a direct blow or kick to the body. Wrists, forearms and elbows are vulnerable to these injuries, especially common among children ages 2 and older. Many occur with popular summer activities such as basketball, bicycle riding and skateboarding. The following symptoms in the injured area might indicate a fracture that requires immediate medical attention:
• Obvious deformity
• Difficulty using or moving the injured area in a normal manner
• Warmth, bruising or redness
Although fractures are a common part of childhood, prevent them by taking simple safety precautions, such as making sure kids always wear safety gear such as helmets and wrist guards, when participating in sports.
Although it’s impossible to keep kids out of harm’s way all the time, following safety guidelines can help avoid a visit to the emergency room.