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Guest Column

Adult supervision prevents many childhood injuries

Published September 19, 2006

Teachers have returned, students are back. Welcome to school year 2006-2007.

Safety issues may prove challenging, starting with the trip to school, the school environment, sports activities, the trip back home and finally, evening recreation.

In fact, youngsters can put themselves at risk until they're safely tucked in for the night. Injuries typically are minor, requiring iodine and a Band-Aid, but can prove catastrophic when sports-related or vehicular.

Sports injuries, bicycling, climbing and playground injuries cause most of the hurts. The most dangerous threats to children involve vehicle, bicycle and bus-related accidents. All put children at risk for fractures and head injuries. Protective gear will minimize trauma in unexpected spills. The unsupervised child is at greatest risk.

The principal rule to prevent any injury involves adult supervision. Without watching eyes, students will be at increased risk for harm.

The child's day may begin at a bus stop, and the presence of grownups will keep kids settled down awaiting the bus. The same is true at the end of the day when the youth return. Children should follow the 10-foot rule, which allows the bus driver to see the smallest child walking in front, back or alongside the vehicle. The errant motorist is rare, but children cannot assume that crossing in front of their bus and into the street is safe. The youngster must look both ways and expect the unexpected. People piloting cars need to be alert for youngsters and stopped or decelerating school buses.

Other risks include walking and bicycling to and from school. No child younger than 9 should be bicycling on the street. An adult should walk a child to school. Shortcuts away from traffic lights and crossing guards, or jaywalking, pose great danger for children and adults alike. Parents who drive their children should use the designated dropoff.

While at school, children engaged in horseplay, running in the halls and altercations increase risk for injury. The overall tone in the school proves essential. School staff should have a clear presence during class changes and demand proper demeanor in the halls, library and lunchroom.

School athletics top the list for school injuries. Football, soccer, baseball and basketball injuries can be expected. However, they can be minimized with proper equipment and adequate supervision. The coach sets the tone for the team and should balance the enthusiasm to win with sportsmanship and propriety.

Playground falls are a major source of injury and again, supervision and sensible play will avert those dangers. Monkey bars and swings can pose a danger to the unsupervised child. Newer playgrounds are designed for improved safety. Nationally, some 200,000 children will visit emergency rooms due to playground accidents this year.

Other threats are swimming holes, swimming pools and heat. August and September are hot months, and youth find watering holes for recreation. Unsupervised swimming has led to drowning and serious injury. The child swimming alone increases personal risk.

Diving can be dangerous, and accompanying head injuries can be catastrophic. Supervised swimming pools should be used in place of dangerous alternatives. Private pools should be fenced and secure. No child should ever use a home pool without adult presence and appropriate pool safety equipment.

Helmet safety when riding bicycles along with good driving habits reduce serious injury. An estimated 900 bicycle riders will be killed this year because of collisions with motor vehicles. Motorists have a responsibility to be alert to bicyclists and motorcycles.

Clothing worn when riding at night should be light colored and have reflective material. Riders should not use head phones, as they may hinder ability to hear traffic. Traffic laws must be obeyed and bicycle lanes used when available.

Communication can be critical in the event of an emergency. A child can easily carry a card or paper with needed phone numbers where working parents or responsible parties can be reached. Cell phone numbers are particularly useful and will usually expedite contact.

After-school safety, particularly with both parents working and a child left alone, create a myriad of potential problems. No child should be left alone without supervision. Children wandering the malls and the streets are a recipe for trouble and potential injury. Such roaming may prove illegal depending on the age of the child.

Our children face potential injury every day; everyone does. Accidents will happen, and when they do, it's best if they need little more than iodine and a Band-Aid.

Marc J. Yacht is director of the Pasco County Health Department.


[Last modified September 19, 2006, 07:25:12]

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