Beware of falls

With autumn here and children out and about as they go back to school, it should not seem strange that I want to focus on the fall no, not the season, but the injuries that can occur when children take a fall. Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury for children and are a leading cause for emergency room visits, with more than 2.5 million children age 14 and under treated annually in emergency rooms for complications of falls. Let me, therefore, offer some safety tips about preventing serious falls. First, its important to check your home regularly for potential hazards such as ungated stairs, slippery floors, and open unguarded windows. Never leave a child unattended in a room with windows that can be opened, or are open, without a protective barrier to prevent their climbing or falling out. Move all chairs, cribs, beds, and other furniture away from windows. Never leave a baby unattended on a changing table or on any other type of furniture that is not floor-level. For infants and toddlers, make sure your children are well strapped into highchairs, strollers, and shopping carts. Keep stairs gated for your toddler as well and make sure they are well lit and clear of clutter since even older children and adults can trip on objects left on the stairs. If your older children are in bunk beds, make sure the bunk beds have guard rails and a fixed ladder. Children under 6 should not sleep in top bunks. Finally, all children should always wear helmets when biking, rollerblading, or skateboarding. Hopefully, tips like this will cushion your concerns the next time you are worried about your child springing into a fall that might cause serious injury. Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Childrens Hospital at Fletcher Allen and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch First with Kids weekly on WOKO 98.9 FM and WCAX-TV Channel 3. Visit the First with Kids archives at www.vermontchildrens.org.

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