GREENSBORO — Of course children should be outdoors, and accidents happen under the best of circumstances, but many are preventable.
Accidents may not happen every time a child rides an ATV or bike without a helmet, but they do happen, said Leigha Jordan of Safe Kids Guilforda local injury prevention coalition.
“We hear that a lot: ‘It never happened to me,’ or ‘You never heard of that happening as a kid,'” Jordan told News & Record in 2015. “But the reason we want to send these messages is because we see that those cases go through our emergency departments.
Over the years, we’ve asked emergency room doctors and safety experts for their stories about the perils of summer.
Doctors attribute most injuries to carelessness.
Here are security stories experts have shared with News & Record over the years to consider this 4th of July:
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In general, novelty firecrackers that do not explode, lift off the ground, or fly through the air are legal in North Carolina. That would include flares, which produce colored flames. But that doesn’t mean kids should handle them or be around when adults handle them.
People tend to think that they are safe since they are allowed.
“I was a Philadelphia resident in the emergency department, and they brought in a 5-year-old boy because he had picked up an M-80 (firecracker) and it exploded in his hand,” said pediatrician Dr. Rob Poth. the News & Record in 2015. “He had practically blown his hand off.”
Poth said he knows it’s not just children who come across a cache of firecrackers without their parents’ knowledge who handle them because photos circulating on social media and in newspapers often show smiling children holding sparklers with adults nearby.
He said what we’re also doing is sending kids a mixed message.
“Any other time we would tell them to stay away from the fire, it’s dangerous,” he said. “Giving them a sparkler or a wand, or whatever you want to call it, doesn’t make a big difference.”
Too often, parents let their guard down, said Ernest Grant, a former outreach physician for the Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. He said that he knows that to be the case because of the ages of the patients who are injured by the firecrackers.
The flares, which produce colored flames, burn up to 1,000 degrees or more: “As hot as a blowtorch,” Grant said.
“A few years ago, we had someone who was a flower girl at a beach wedding and instead of walking around with flowers, she walked around with sparklers,” Grant said in 2018, “and the sparkler set the dress on fire.”
A child can drown in a couple of inches of water in a bathtub, wading pool, or even a bucket of water in two minutes or less.
General rule when swimming: if the child does not know how to swim, it should always be within arm’s reach. If they know how to swim, they must be supervised.
Pediatrician Dr. Ross Kuhner shared a drowning victim’s story with News & Record in 2015.
“The child ran away from parental supervision and went to the lake and fell or went into the water and drowned,” said Kuhner, who is now medical director of Cone Health’s children’s emergency department. “(The water) wasn’t very deep, but it didn’t take much.”
It’s also important to know what a drowning would look like, experts said.
“People who are drowning don’t always look as expected,” said Dr. James O’Neill, a specialist in pediatric emergency medicine at Brenner Children’s Hospital.
They may not have the energy to splash around long enough to get someone’s attention or call for help because they may not have enough oxygen in their lungs, he told News & Record in 2015.
Another summer hazard comes from such popular hobbies as riding a bike, scooter, ATV, or skateboard without a helmet or protection. Children should also not be allowed to operate ATVs, experts warn.
Sometimes parents are simply not aware that their child could be driving an ATV. Luly Beckles, pediatric injury prevention coordinator for Brenner and Safe Kids Northwest Piedmont, shared the story of a boy who got into an ATV at the home of one of her friends last year. The vehicle collided and the boy died.
“Nobody wanted this to happen, but having that conversation lets that parent know that they don’t want their child to ride in an ATV,” Beckles said.
About 650 people are killed in ATV accidents each year in the United States, and a third are under the age of 16. North Carolina had 39 reported deaths between 2017 and 2018, according to the state Fire Marshal’s Office.
North Carolina allows children ages 8 and up to drive age-appropriate ATVs with supervision.
Dr. Michael Mitchell, a pediatrician in the emergency department at Brenner Children’s Hospital, part of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, remembers a boy under the age of 6 who was driving an ATV with an even younger passenger. They both ended up in the ER.
Riding an ATV requires making a lot of complex decisions: when to stop, when to slow down, when to speed up, Mitchell said of maneuvering the motorized vehicle and reacting to conditions.
“Kids are less aware of consequences, they’re easily distracted, and these things are really powerful,” Mitchell said in 2018.
Medical staff see broken bones and worse when drivers hit a tree or fall into a ditch, including burns from carburetor contact.
With bikes, scooters and skateboards, many of the accidents will happen as close as the driveway, Kuhner said.
“A 10-year-old boy was riding a bicycle (without a helmet) and sustained a skull fracture and bleeding around the brain,” Kuhner said. “A helmet would have prevented that from happening.”
Seat belts could save countless young car accident victims from being rushed to hospital emergency rooms each year, said Dr. Philip Neustadt, a former emergency room physician at Wesley Long Hospital.
“Seat belts save lives, seat belts prevent injuries, seat belts are very important, and we can never say enough,” Neustadt said in 2001.
Pediatric patients have also lost limbs falling from lawnmowers. Surgeons don’t want to see kids on lawnmowers, even if they’re on grandpa’s lap.
“It’s very, very important that people understand that these kinds of injuries are preventable,” pediatrician Robert Letton said in 2001.
children left in cars
For those parents tempted to pull over and leave their kids in the car with the broken windows: Don’t.
A car’s windows act like a greenhouse, trapping sunlight and heat, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
And for those adults transporting children, have a plan to make sure all children are accounted for at destinations or before they are locked up. If a child rides in the back seat of a car, use a reminder system, possibly one of that child’s toys from a purse or cell phone in the front seat.
“I can see them,” Kuhner said of his experiences with those children accidentally left in the vehicles. “The only thing you can say is that you can’t leave a child in a car for a long time.”
Contact Nancy McLaughlin at 336-373-7049 and follow @nmclaughlinNR on Twitter.