Child Injury Prevention
Many Canadian children eagerly look forward to the start of summer – the season of free time, exploration, sunshine and relaxation. But with the fun and excitement, kids can easily forget or overlook basic safety considerations, jeopardizing their safety and resulting in a range of injuries.
Injury is the leading cause of death for Canadian children. An estimated 390 children ages 14 and under die every year and another 25,500 are hospitalized, according to a 10-year study by Safe Kids Canada. The simultaneously heartbreaking and encouraging news is that injuries are preventable.
This National Summer Safety Week, May 1 to 7, the Canada Safety Council encourages parents, guardians and educators to help their children avoid injuries. Be proactive and talk about injury prevention with your kids to help them develop healthy attitudes. One of the best and most practical ways of doing this is to set a good example and make safety part of all your summer plans!
Manage and eliminate hazards at home
Safety is an attitude. Part of being safety-conscious is taking steps to make your home a safer place for children. Here are a few examples.
- Falls are the leading cause of injury requiring hospitalizations for children. Supervise kids at all times when they are near a balcony or screened window. A child may be able to push out or fall through a screen. Also, remove anything a youngster can climb on to reach a window or a balcony’s ledge.
- Do you adjust your blinds to help regulate the temperature inside your house? Check that blind cords are always well out of reach of children, as cords may pose a strangulation hazard. Cut looped blind cords and shorten the dangling remainders. Another option is to change your corded blinds for cordless window coverings, such as curtains. Health Canada reports that between 1986 and January 2013, there have been 34 strangulation deaths and 26 near-fatal incidents involving window-covering cords and children under the age of five.
- When your vehicle is parked, keep the doors and the trunk locked at all times. Safeguard your keys. Curious children may try to get inside your vehicle to play, and they may get locked inside or try to start and move the vehicle. Do not teach your children how to operate a vehicle or bypass child safety features, such as transmission locks, until they are of driving age.
Safety on the go
An excursion with children can be a challenge, especially when there are multiple demands for your attention. Avoid distractions and focus on safety! Here are a few examples.
- Never leave a child alone in a vehicle, even for a few minutes. A study funded by General Motors of Canada found that within 20 minutes, the air temperature in a previously air-conditioned small car exposed to the sun on a 35ºC day (95º F) exceeded 50ºC (122º F). Within 40 minutes the temperature soared to 65.5 ºC (150º F). These heat levels are dangerous for anyone, especially children who can very quickly overheat. If you notice a vehicle where a child has been left unattended, do not hesitate to call 9-1-1.
- Accompany children to supervise their cycling excursions whenever possible, especially when they are first learning road rules. Children must understand that responsibilities come with the freedom of pedaling away on two wheels. These include not riding on busy streets; not riding at night; stopping for all stop signs; using arm signals to alert other road users when turning or slowing or stopping; riding on the right with traffic; always wearing an approved helmet when cycling; and always wearing a bike helmet properly.
- Before moving your vehicle, do a walk-around to check for pets, objects and people that may be hiding in your blind-spots. Inside the vehicle, check that that each child passenger is properly restrained, whether in a car seat, booster seat or with a seatbelt alone. For children big enough to use a seatbelt, never place the shoulder strap behind a child’s back or under the arm. If you do, in the event of a collision, the top half of the child’s body will be held back by nothing and serious or fatal head, neck and back injuries can occur. A Transport Canada survey of children sustaining severe injuries from vehicle crashes revealed that 92 per cent of infants, 74 per cent of toddlers and 96 per cent of school-aged children were not restrained appropriately at the time of the crash.
Get active, stay safe!
- Weak swimmers should always wear a lifejacket or PFD. Supervise children at all times while they are playing in water.
- If children are allowed to use a trampoline, adult supervision is nonnegotiable. An adult should inspect the trampoline before each use. Follow these rules: one person at a time; no flips or somersaults; and no jumping onto or off of the trampoline. Children younger than six should not use a trampoline.
- Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more before all outdoor activities such as swimming, skateboarding, biking or even walking. Remember to apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply often, as perspiration will reduce the effectiveness. Keep children under the age of one out of the sun.
Resources for caregivers and children
Visit our Elmer the Safety Elephant website at www.elmer.ca for new child-safety topics each month. We offer safety information for kids, colouring pages and activity sheets, along with resources for parents and educators. Archived safety topics are also available.
Have fun and stay safe this summer!
For more information, please contact:
Communications/Media Program Coordinator, Canada Safety Council
(613) 739-1535 (ext. 228)