Beginning with the first day of your child's life, think safety! Injuries claim more lives during the first year of growth and development in a child than any other single year of life. In infants, 50 percent of injury-related deaths occur before they become 4 months of age. Asphyxiation is responsible for nearly 40 percent of all injury-related deaths in children less than one year.
Liquid foods and vomit are the primary choking culprits in infancy; however, infants also choke from the inhalation of small detachable parts from toys, safety pins, buttons and beads. Plastic materials such as crib covers or dry cleaning bags can cause mechanical suffocation. Hanging toys with ropes or loops have caused strangulation in infants as well as structurally defective cribs and playpens. (Such products should have the CPSC safety seal of approval before considering their purchase.)
Motor vehicle accidents are responsible for more than 20 percent of infant injury deaths. Remember, the use of an infant safety seat in the car can increase the likelihood of survival in a car crash by 90 percent. Burns, drowning and falls make up the remaining causes of infant injury-related death.
Injuries are the leading cause of death in the preschool aged group, causing more death and disability than all the contagious diseases combined. Preschoolers' growth and developmental achievements contribute most significantly to the occurrence of injuries. The preschooler is the great explorer - curious, impulsive, independent, fearless and fast. This age child climbs, runs, falls and learns through his daily conquests and failures. One of the most common characteristics of this age group is the touch and taste test. As a result of his mouthing and learning, the risk of poison injury is higher during these years than at all other years of life combined.
Preschoolers also have the highest incidence of burn injuries, mostly scalds from hot foods or liquids. Contact burns with stoves, heaters and irons are also common.
Drowning and choking represent the third and fourth most common injury-related death in this age group. Hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn and hard candy are particularly hazardous food items for this age group.
The most frequent fatal injuries in this age group are motor vehicle, pedestrian, burns, drowning and choking. Their injury risks as pedestrians are great. One of every 10 injury deaths in children, ages 6-12 years, are motor vehicle-pedestrian related.
Bicycle safety should certainly be emphasized to this age child. Additionally, knee pads, elbow pads and a helmet should be a prerequisite to skateboarding. An increasing cause of death and injury in this age group is the all-terrain vehicle (ATV, three-and four-wheelers). Over 56,000 children under age 12 have received emergency department treatment for ATV-related injuries since 1982. ATV use by children under 14 years of age should be prohibited. Children lack sufficient strength, coordination and judgment to safely operate ATV's.
Motor vehicle-related deaths are responsible for nearly 80 percent of all injury deaths in teenagers. One out of every 50 teens requires hospitalization for motor vehicle (occupant) related injuries each year. Auto safety classes and seatbelt usage cannot be overemphasized as protective measures for the safety of teenagers.
The second leading injury threat to the lives of teenagers is drowning, while deaths due to burns are third and poisoning fourth. The most common poison ingestions in teens involve alcohol and drug abuse. Poison ingestion is a very common method of attempting or gesturing suicide in the adolescent age group.
The most common type of nonfatal injury in teenagers is sports injury. It is estimated that one of every 14 teenagers has required hospitalization for a sports injury. Football accounted for nearly 20 percent of sports injuries in teens, with basketball, roller-skating and baseball following.