Once again, as it seems I do every year, I am unhappy to report that Unintentional Injury is still the leading cause of death in children in the U.S., in age groups 1-4 and 5-9 years as just reported this week for the year 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WISQARS database statistics.
It is a shocking set of statistics because we know many unintentional injuries are preventable–and yet, they were not prevented. Unintentional injury remains the leading cause of death for Americans all the way through the 35-44-year age group which is when the leading causes present as malignancies and, finally in later year age groups, to heart disease. My plea continues to be that as parents, family members and caregivers of young children, we are more “present”, more focused (without becoming helicopter parents) on children’s wellbeing, and that ultimately we are more caring of kids.
To that end, parents, family members and caregivers need to be aware of harmful children’s toys, unsafe car doors and windows, the every-day dangers of medicines inappropriately used or stored, the same goes for home-cleaning chemicals–store (even lock) them up high! We need to be aware of window blinds that still have pull cords, placement of baby cribs in a room away from windows, safe sleep requirements for babies, even the fiber content or the chemicals in their crib mattresses. We need to be alerted to new child seat laws and regulations as they become Law–and if we see people driving kids in the front seat, with no car seats or seat belts…we need to suggest they get a free car seat check at their nearest fire or police department. When we see tiny fingers on a conveyor belt at a check-out counter, we need to gently let the young child and accompanying caregiver know, “That’s dangerous, don’t touch!” When you see a child playing in a store in front of the automatic doors or a parent toting a child in a basket…with the child standing, say something! Falls-causing brain damage change lives forever. Young children on bicycles and scooters need helmets too. So we need to spread the word! We need to watch children carefully when they are around water, in parks and playing in playgrounds. We need to watch children when we are cooking, doing laundry, or handling hot foods–we need to watch children crossing the street, waiting for the bus.
We need to step up and make a public commitment and outcry against distracted driving by…almost everyone! We need to call 911 if we see an unattended child in a car, with the windows rolled up! And the list goes on…from unsafe button batteries, to bucky balls, to cadmium-covered imported toys. The challenge to keep children safe is daunting! We need to be aware and brave in matters that concern child safety. We need to advocate for children, because they cannot advocate for themselves! We owe it to them! They are our hope for the future. Their safety, health and care is our responsibility.