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HAMILTON HEALTH – Some more summer safety tips

Readers have asked me to address more summer safety issues. It’s great to see kids and adults out on their bicycles now that the weather has warmed up (especially kids who aren’t sitting on the couch). This will undoubtedly result in more bike accidents. Some of the saddest experiences I had during my Family Medicine residency were to have to take care of kids who were brain injured as a result of a bike accident.

In 2015, there were 818 deaths from bicycle accidents in the United States, an increase of more than 12 percent. Most of these deaths were the result of head injuries from people being hit by or running into automobiles. Bike accidents account for about half a million visits to emergency departments each year and account for more than $10 billion in health care costs.

While most kids own bike helmets, often they tell me they don’t wear them. Parents often bring up the fact they never wore a helmet when they were kids. Most of the time, the reason is because helmets didn’t exist when they were kids.

Helmets really do work – wearing one decreases the chance of a serious head injury by more than 50 percent and serious face and neck injuries by 33 percent. Those wearing helmets have less than a 17 percent chance of dying from a bicycle accident – a marked improvement from pre-helmet days. Deaths for persons less than 20 years old have decreased 88 percent since 1975.

Children should be taught that they don’t ride if they don’t wear their helmet. Adults must also set good examples by purchasing and using helmets. Also teach your kids to ride with traffic (the same side of the road as the cars are traveling).

While any helmet is better than no helmet at all, take kids with you to try them on. It’s also worth the slight increased cost to go to a bike store for a proper fit. Make sure the helmet meets Consumer Product Safety Committee standards. Also remember that accidents can occur anywhere, not just on the street.

Kids should not only be fitted for a helmet, they should also be fitted for a bike. It’s better to take children to the store to try out a bike than to surprise them with a new bike that is too big. Bikes that are too large or are purchased for the child to “grow into” can be unsteady and lead to accidents. Don’t push your child to ride a two-wheeler until he or she is ready (usually 5 to 6 years old).

I am seeing more scooter injuries in my medical practice. Most involve either head injuries or broken arms and are almost universally the result of going too fast (i.e. down a hill). The tiny wheels on a scooter offer very little control at higher speeds. Motorized scooters are very dangerous. Often the speeds they produce far outpace the rider’s common sense (especially if a male). If your child rides a scooter, the same bike safety rules apply – wear a helmet. In addition, he or she should wear wrist guards as well as elbow and knee pads. The same goes for rollerblades.

Another wheeled vehicle that has an extremely high potential to seriously injure or kill a child is an all-terrain vehicle or ATV. While they are no doubt fun, based on the injuries I’ve seen, I still can’t fathom why any parent would allow their young child to ride one. If you allow your child to ride one, make sure you supervise him or her closely. Purchase a good set of personal protective gear and a full-face helmet, have them take a safety course, and severely limit the power of the vehicle.

Remember, the experience and common sense of children lags far behind the potential speeds these vehicles produce as well as potential hazards they will encounter. The same advice goes for motorcycles, known in emergency department parlance as “donor cycles.”

Lawnmower safety is the last thing I’d like to address. Keep small children indoors when mowing – you may not see them approaching the mower. No matter how fun it seems, don’t let small children ride on your lap when you’re on the lawn tractor. I’ve seen more than one limb amputation from mower accidents.

Parents ask me when it’s safe for their kids to mow the lawn. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends they be at least twelve before allowing them to operate a push mower and 16 for a riding mower. When teaching your child to mow, get out the owner’s manual and go over all the safety equipment (and make sure it’s all still functional). The mower should have a bale with a kill switch on the engine and/or blades. Adjust the height of the handle to allow the child to control the mower.

If you, as an adult, feel uncomfortable mowing part of your yard (a hill for instance), certainly don’t allow your child to try it. Also follow general lawn mowing safety rules: wear sturdy shoes, minimize mowing backwards, clear the yard of debris, don’t stick your hand in a grass chute with the engine running, and wear hearing and eye protection.

Dr. John Roberts is a licensed medical physician. He writes a weekly column exclusively for Sagamore News Media publications.

Article source: https://thetimes24-7.com/Content/Columnists/Columnists/Article/HAMILTON-HEALTH-Some-more-summer-safety-tips/13/163/58761