Ten Things to Think About: Preventing Childhood Injuries

Parents are primary caregivers and protectors of their children. They are responsible for providing a safe environment and taking reasonable precautions to minimize the risk of injuries to their child. 

Failure to provide a safe home environment for your child can result in parental liability issues if a child injury results. But don't be afraid. Simply being aware of the hazards and potential dangers children may face can go a long way toward preventing childhood injuries.

Below are ten things to think about for childhood injury prevention. These include the legal aspects of parental liability and the steps to take if the negligence of others injured your child. Understanding these issues allows you to create a safe home environment and avoid potential legal complications.

1. Accidental Falls Are a Leading Cause of Injury-Related Emergency Department Visits

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), accidental falls are a leading cause of unintentional injury-related ER visits, particularly among children. Some 8,000 children are treated for fall-related injuries daily.

To reduce the chances of your child falling at home, make sure that you supervise your children's play. You can:

  • Bar or securely latch your windows and screens.
  • Block all stairways from younger children.
  • Keep stairs and halls free of toys and other items.
  • Don't use baby walkers without proper or recommended supervision

2. Not All Falls Occur at Home

As parents of young children know, not all falls happen in the home. To minimize the risk of injury from falls away from home, you can:

  • Only visit playgrounds with safe surfaces like wood chips, pebbles, or rubberized pathways.
  • Use safety restraints in shopping carts and always stay close to the cart.
  • Hold your child's hand on stairways and escalators.
  • Make bicycle helmets mandatory when biking, skateboarding, or riding a scooter.
  • Teach your child to be careful around slippery surfaces like wet floors or sleet-covered sidewalks.

Along with these tips, brainstorm with family and friends about how to keep your children safe. Safe Kids Worldwide offers more tips to prevent childhood fall injuries.

3. Car Accidents Are the Leading Cause of Unintentional Injury-Related Death for Kids

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children under the age of 15. To minimize the risk of death and injury from motor vehicle crashes:

  • Always put infants in rear-facing car seats.
  • Restrain older babies and toddlers in forward-facing child safety seats.
  • Put older preschoolers and younger school-age groups of children in booster seats with adequate restraint systems.
  • Never allow children to ride in the front seat.
  • Restrain all children with the vehicle's seat belts.

You can set a good example for your children by always wearing your seat belt. You can also practice safe driving habits, including not texting or using your phone while driving.

Note that all states have car seat requirements based on height, weight, and age. You can check your state's DMV website for more information. You can also check with your local fire department or hospital, which can often provide free car seat installation checks.

4. Accidental Drownings Can Happen in Even a Few Inches of Water

Nearly 900 children drown every year in the U.S. To avoid the risk of drowning, you can follow these safety standards:

  • Supervise your children whenever they are in or near the swimming pool.
  • Don't leave your children alone in the bathtub.
  • Keep gates around backyard pools locked.
  • Pour out containers like buckets and wading pools when not in use.
  • Keep bathroom doors closed and use child-proof doorknobs. A toddler can even drown in the toilet.
  • Make sure your children wear life jackets when boating and participating in other water sports.
  • Teach your children how to swim or enroll them in swimming lessons.
  • Learn CPR and basic water rescue techniques.
  • Go over water safety rules with your children, such as not swimming without adult supervision and never diving into shallow water.

5. Poisoning Is Another Common Cause of Childhood Injury

Below are some tips to help your family avoid the risk of injury from poisoning. You can reach Poison Control by dialing 800-222-1222 or get help online anytime. You can:

  • Keep all medicines, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent pods, and chemicals out of children's reach.
  • Use child-proof doorknobs and cabinet latches as necessary.
  • Avoid transferring potentially harmful substances to different containers, like soda bottles or food-storage containers. It could confuse a child and encourage ingestion.
  • Make sure that none of the plants in your home or garden are poisonous.
  • Don't call medicine "candy," which could encourage overdosing.
  • Store all batteries out of the reach of adolescents.
  • Properly dispose of unused or expired medications by following local guidelines or participating in a drug take-back program.

Post the telephone number for your local poison control center and other emergency numbers in an easily accessible location, such as on the refrigerator. You can also keep ipecac syrup handy to induce vomiting in case of accidental poisoning. But first, check with your local poison control center before administering.

6. Children's Skin Can Easily Get Burned

Research shows that children's skin burns more easily than that of adults. Just three seconds' contact with tap water of 140 degrees Fahrenheit can cause third-degree burns to a young child.

Bath water should not greatly exceed the temperature of the human body or 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Set the thermostat on your home water heater to less than 102 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burn injuries. Always test the bath water temperature on your wrist or elbow before placing your child in the bath.

Additional tips include:

  • Don't try to carry a child and a hot liquid like a cup of coffee at the same time.
  • Use the back burners on your stove and keep all pot handles pointed away from the front edge of the stove.
  • Keep all lighters and matches out of children's reach.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in your home and learn how to use it.
  • Develop and practice a fire escape plan with your family.
  • Install smoke alarms in your home and change the batteries regularly.
  • Don't allow young children to play with dangerous objects like Fourth of July sparklers.

You can also protect your child from sunburn by applying sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more. Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or sweating. Avoid sun exposure during peak hours, and make sure your child wears protective clothing.

7. Children Under Three May Choke on Small Objects

One way to determine whether an object carries a high risk of causing a child to choke is to see if it fits through an empty toilet paper tube. If it does, keep it out of a young child's reach.

You can minimize the risk of childhood suffocation accidents by:

  • Not feeding toddlers round foods like grapes, nuts, hotdogs, and popcorn
  • Storing small items like coins, pins, jewelry, buttons, and beads out of the reach of small children
  • Verifying that toys have no small removable parts, like teddy bear eyes
  • Not allowing children to wear clothing with drawstrings, which can cause strangulation
  • Cutting food into small, manageable pieces
  • Keeping all window-treatment cords out of children's reach

Keep your CPR and Heimlich maneuver skills up to date in case your child does choke despite your best efforts. If your child is no longer breathing or coughing, call 911 and seek medical attention right away.

8. Guns Can Be Found in About Half of All American Homes

Regardless of your stance on gun ownership, teaching your kids about gun safety can prevent accidental shootings.

Here are some general gun safety practices that you can implement to avoid the risk of fatal injuries:

  • Store all guns unloaded in a locked compartment, such as a gun safe.
  • Use trigger locks to prevent unauthorized use.
  • Store ammunition in a separate, locked compartment.
  • Keep the keys to the locked compartments in a place that only adults know about and that children cannot discover.
  • Educate your child about gun safety and the importance of not touching firearms without adult supervision.
  • Consider enrolling your older children in a gun safety course when they are of an appropriate age.

The significance of gun safety education cannot be overstated. In 2019, there were 486 unintentional firearm-related deaths in the United States. Many of these incidents involved children.

The discussion around gun safety and gun control in the United States is a heated and ongoing debate. While the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, all gun owners must recognize their responsibility to ensure the safe handling and storage of their firearms.

9. Accidents Will Still Happen

Most parents do their best to promote their child's health and well-being. Despite following all public health recommendations and safety precautions, accidents can still happen.

In case of a serious injury, such as a cut that won't stop bleeding or a traumatic brain injury with loss of consciousness, dial 911 or seek immediate medical care from a pediatric healthcare provider. Always inform the other parent about any accidents or serious injuries involving your child so they know the situation and can provide additional support.

10. You May Have a Lawsuit if Your Child Is Injured

A personal injury attorney can review the facts of your case to determine whether another person or company should be held accountable and made to pay for any losses for you and your child. If, for example, another driver's carelessness resulted in a car accident that injured your child or a defective toy without a disclaimer that caused your child to choke, you may be able to sue the responsible party.

Need Legal Help With a Childhood Injury? Call an Attorney

Despite taking every possible measure to prevent childhood injuries, accidents can still happen. In such cases, seek legal help to determine if another caregiver or company should be held responsible for the damages you and your injured child suffered.

Personal injury lawyers or family law attorneys can review your case to assess whether negligence, child abuse, or unsafe living conditions have contributed to the injury.

You may need a criminal defense attorney in cases of child abuse or neglect allegations. Your state's laws may also require you to report the matter to the police or child protective services.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Parental liability laws are different in every state
  • Liability cases are complex and a skilled attorney is essential
  • Establishing or terminating parental rights will involve a court process

An attorney can help protect your rights after your child’s negligent or criminal acts. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

If you are in the midst of a parental rights or liability case, it may be an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and make sure your children are provided for. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

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