Now that I spilled my heart out yesterday – thank you for letting me use Yes Five as my personal therapy couch – here are some actual facts about children and accidents. Everyone worries about his or her kids getting really sick and, as life is not the meritocracy it should be, children do become gravely ill. However, this is rare, and there is very little, if anything you can do to prevent it. Please, for the sake of your sanity, stop worrying about the things you cannot control – you know who you are, Catastrophic Thinkers. Every sniffle is not pneumonia and every ache is not bone cancer. Parental instinct is a powerful thing – you will know when something is really wrong. It will be just like the times you think your child has a fever. You put a hand or a mouth – I never quite got this technique – on their head, and you wonder if they may be warm. Out comes the ear thermometer, which reads 98.6 but you don’t believe it because those things aren’t accurate. Next comes the children’s Motrin, Tylenol and a cool bath, all while your kid is yelling she wants to go back outside. Fast forward a couple of weeks. Your child has a bad ear infection. They are lethargic and quiet. You touch them, and know without doubt that they are burning up. This is what you have to remember next time you think they have a fever – when they do, you will know it. Same goes for serious illness. You will know. Don’t waste time worrying. Instead, do what you can to prevent the real culprit in the fatality rate of children – accidents. Today, younger children. Tomorrow, teens and young adults.
1. The number one cause of death between the ages of 1 and 44 is unintentional accidents. (For infants, the most common causes of death have to do with congenital defects, SIDS, and pregnancy complications.)
2. Almost 3,000 children die each year from accidents. According to the National Cancer Institute, about 1,500 children die from cancer every year. Please don’t mistake my mentioning this statistic as an intention to dismiss the magnitude of childhood cancer. I mention it because, as a parent, I know what we worry about most, and I want to provide some context.
3. The number one fatal accident for children between 1 and 14 is falls. 74 children died from cycling accidents in 2009. About 300,000 children are seen in ERs for bicycle falls each year in America. Half of those who are hospitalized, are kept because of head injury. Approximately 18 children die each year from falling out a window. They are usually male, less than 5 years old and unsupervised – something I clearly should’ve known. Why are boys so dumb? Drowning is the second leading cause of death for this age group. The most common cause of an unintentional accident-related death for children less than 1 is choking.
4. Almost half of fatal accidents occur in and near the home.
5. Accident, by definition, is an “unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance.” I agree with the “unplanned”, but I think, in many instances, the “unforeseen” is a cop out.
I am not suggesting you blow a bubble around your child. They are going to get hurt. It is part of life. It shouldn’t, however, rob them of life. Look around your home for potential hazards including poisons and fall risks. Watch them in the pool, but remember a child can drown in one inch of water. Get a helmet that fits. Teach them about safety and consequences. Grandparents’ homes are notorious for injuries to children. If your child spends any significant time in other houses, politely check out the surroundings. Yes, your parents will roll their eyes and say, “You kids today worry too much.” That may be, but it is still our turn.