From tiny tots to tenacious grandmas, preventing falls is an important part of healthy aging. So I’m going dedicate two posts to the subject. In this, the first post, I’ll identify risk factors and prevention measures for children; and in the second, I’ll identify risk factors and prevention measures for older adults and those with mobility issues.
The word fall has several connotations—green leaves changing to wondrous copper, red, and gold, pumpkin spice lattes or hot cider, toasty fires, and a bit of crispness in the morning air. However, fall has other more serious connotations for people all of ages. While anyone can fall at any time, children under 5 years of age and older adults are more likely to be seriously injured.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every five falls results in a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury. Falls are a leading cause of injury among older adults; each year, emergency departments see 2.8 million older people seeking treatment for injuries sustained during a fall. Many of these falls sadly result in serious injury and loss of mobility and independence.
However, by putting some simple strategies into place, from hazard-proofing your home to simple strength exercises which improve your core or balance, falls can be prevented.
Preventing Fall-Related Injuries Among Children
Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury for children. Each year, an estimated 9.2 million children visited emergency rooms for fall-related injuries, according to the CDC.
Most infant falls tend to happen in and around the home. Infants commonly fall from elevated surfaces such as changing tables, cribs, high chairs, counter tops, bathtubs, furniture, stairs, or windows.
When an infant falls, the result can be very serious, and a head injury, concussion or fracture can occur. Close, constant supervision and installing the right equipment like safety locks, safety gates, and window security bars are key to keeping your baby safe.
Quick In-Home Safety Tips
A few tips you can implement to lower the risk of falls are:
- Watch those heights. Never leave a baby unsupervised on a bed, changing table, car seat, counter top or furniture that raises them above the floor
- Strap children in when they are sitting in a highchair, car seat, stroller, changing table, or bouncy chair.
- Use safety gates, install them at the top and bottom of stairs, to block curious little one’s access to the stairs.
- Keep them away from open windows and always have window guards or locks in place. Window screens are not able or meant to hold the full weight of a leaning child.
- Prevent slips and tumbles in the bathtub and shower by using rubber mats to keep little feet firmly in place. Young children should be supervised at all times while in the bathtub or shower.
Safety in The Big, Wide World
As our children get more mobile and adventurous, our role in keeping them safe becomes even more challenging. Indoors, outdoors, you must anticipate it all. Let’s face it—kids just want to have fun, and while doing so, they often fall. But you can help them stay safe while playing by keeping these safety guidelines in mind.
For fun on the go:
- Never leave your child unattended in a shopping cart or allow them to stand up in a shopping cart because the cart could tip over.
- Keep safety belts fastened at all times: Whether your child is in a car seat, stroller, or shopping cart, always strap the child in.
For outside play:
- Guide your child to age-appropriate equipment, and choose playground equipment surrounded by a surface of wood chips, mulch, or shredded rubber to better cushion possible falls.
- Scour your backyard for any items or obstacles that could present a danger to your kids if they fall while they play. Garden tools, hoses, and ladders should be moved to a secure place while they are at play.
- Also check for and remove natural hazards, like low tree limbs, or holes in the ground.
Children often spend several hours each week on backyard play equipment, playgrounds, or at parks. Unfortunately, playground equipment is not always as safe as we’d like it to be. In fact, playground injuries are a leading cause of injuries sending young children to emergency rooms each year. Fractures and head injuries are the most common and serious types of injuries that occur, and they usually result from falls off of play structures.
For fun on wheels:
- Bikes, skateboards, roller blades, Razors, or scooters, are a no-go for launch unless the rider is wearing a helmet, even if they are just in your driveway. When your children are on the younger side, you may be able to coax them into wear matching elbow and knee pads.
- Ensure all their equipment is appropriate for their physical and skill level, and well-maintained.
- Make sure all helmets carry the Consumer Product Safety Commission approved safety sticker.
- Helmets shouldn’t be too small or too big, and they should be worn level on the head, with straps fastened tightly enough to keep the helmet from flopping or sliding around during play.
- Make sure the forehead is covered. If you are unsure about proper fit, don’t be afraid to ask someone at a cycling or sporting goods shop.
- And most importantly, set the example: wear a helmet when you ride. Your children will follow your lead and respect your rules if you also follow the ones you’ve set.
As children grow and mature, wheels and speed are a natural part of their development. While this increases the risk for falls and injury, the great news is our kids are getting exercise and fresh air away from their electronic devices and TVs.
Adolescents and teen falls typically occur during sports and leisure activities. Falls or collision impacts tend to happen during sports like football, soccer, hockey, and skiing, or on trampolines, skateboards, rollerblading, and bicycling. These activities are the leading cause of hospitalizations for young people under 20 years of age. Common injuries include sprains, fractures, head injuries and concussions. In fact, bike injuries alone send about 300,000 children to the emergency room each year.
Sadly, along with some bike injuries comes head injuries, which could mean a brain injury. Wearing a bike helmet is critical to our children’s safety, especially when they go cruising on wheels. Wearing one doesn’t encourage them to be reckless, but a helmet will provide them protection for their face, head, and most importantly, brain, in the event they have a fall.
Educate Your Kids
Educate your kids about the family’s staying safe rules before letting them run and roll around. You can make it a fun activity by writing the rules on a chalkboard and ask them for suggestions. Make sure they know these rules and let all their playmates know them, too.
As a responsible parent, use every opportunity to talk with your child how to be safe and stay safe. Many injuries from falls are both predictable and preventable.