By Karen Sheehan, MD
It is a strange paradox of human nature that we worry about the things we cannot prevent (such as a child getting leukemia or a brain tumor) and dismiss what we can impact, such as minimizing severe injury.
Injury is the leading cause of death for Americans 1 to 44 years of age; much of it is preventable. Indeed, we have made great strides over the last two decades. For example, deaths from motor-vehicle crashes have decreased even with more cars on the road and more miles driven. But the education messages of injury prevention sound to some like limiting freedom such as ‘wear your seat belt’ although in reality they increase your ability to do what you want with your life. After all, what is more limiting to personal freedom than a spinal cord injury or death?
So what are three high-impact safety measures you can implement to minimize injury at different stages of your child’s development?
Practice safe sleep: It is sobering to consider the number of children who die in the first year of life from sleep-related deaths. It’s not just Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Sleep-related deaths include suffocation and entrapment as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics does a good job, I think, of explaining what one needs to do to create a safe sleep environment for infants.
Use age-appropriate child passenger safety restraints: Parents often tell me that “I am a good driver so I don’t need to get a car seat for my child.” I am sure you can see the flaw in this logic. You can’t control who runs the red light and hits you, even if you are the best driver ever. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has some easy to read information to help keep your child safe in cars.
Store your gun safely: The American Academy of Pediatrics states that the safest course of action is to not have guns in homes where children live and play. However, if you choose to have a gun, it is critical that you store it safely. The second safest action would be to have the gun and bullets stored separately and locked. If this is not an option, a locked box where the gun and bullets are stored with only the owner knowing the combination is a sound choice. Teens, and easy access to guns, are not a good combination for both homicide and suicide. Take a look at the work that researchers at Harvard are doing to understand how to prevent suicide, the third leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 19 in this country.