Child Safety and Accidents

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by Mark Moore, MD

The gulf coast of Florida has been in the news lately -- battered by hurricanes and tropical storms. The media is filled with sensationalized news reports to warn locals of the impending threat to life.

While the dangerous weather bypassed us this summer, tragedy did not. Our community has lost the lives of several of its young people from tragic recreational accidents.

Accidents are the primary cause of death for children ages birth to 19. The top five causes of death among children are:

  1. Motor vehicle accidents
  2. Other accidents: drowning, burns, falls, poisoning
  3. Homicide
  4. Cancer
  5. Suicide

The order varies depending on the age group, demographics, and climate.

Accidents and injury occur more commonly in tired, hungry children, that is just before naptime or meals. Unfamiliar environments such as a family vacation or move can add to that risk. Realize, too, that for every fatal injury there are a thousand non-fatal ones.

We live in a complex world and while some things are obvious for parents: wear seatbelts, keep guns locked and out of the hands of children, don.t let your teenager drink and drive; others are more subtle: should you buy your child a go-cart or mini-bike, use a trampoline, go rock-climb or hang-glide?

Where does a good parent draw the line? What is the difference between a parent that worries too much or one that knows too much? Should we let them learn from the school of hard knocks" even if it kills them? Or should keep them safe by locking them in a closet. What parent in the history of civilization has not struggled with dilemma. Parents in ancient Rome might have argued about allowing Claudious to attend gladiator school. Different millenium, same issues.

Once again, the best approach is to know your children. Monitor their activities. Have input. Wear seatbelts 100% of the time. Watch your water and fire. Pools must be covered and fenced. A simple accident like a cooking pot pulled off a stove can permanently alter a child.s life. Use no open flame unless absolutely necessary. Make sure when they get into something new, they are ready to handle it. That means spend time with them or arrange for someone to give them lessons. This applies not only to unstructured activities but organized sports and hobbies too. And it doesn't end with experience. Being good at something can lead to more challenging and daring acts. We have all read about famous pilots and skiers who were well trained but made fatal judgement errors.

While my thoughts on this continue to evolve, I'd like to hear your opinions. Send your comments and suggestions to my email address below.

Mark Moore, MD is a pediatric and obstetric anesthesiologist in Tallahassee, Florida. He is the author of Baby Girl or Baby Boy. Readers may send questions by e-mail to Dr. Moore.

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