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Use these tips for a safe, fun holiday

HOUSTON, TX (December01, 2009)

Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital specialist offers tips for keeping holidays fun and accident-free



See more safety tips in this video

The holiday season is in full swing as children bubble over with excitement and parents rush to buy gifts, organize parties and plan trips to visit family and friends. However, it takes only a moment for a child to sustain a devastating injury, turning holiday joy into tragedy.

"Most childhood injuries can be prevented if parents and caregivers focus on two things - anticipating risks and participating fully in observing children," said Stacey Moore-Olefumi, M.D., surgeon at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital, home of the largest pediatric trauma center in the Gulf Coast region and one of only three Level 1 pediatric trauma centers in Texas.

In the Children's Memorial Hermann Emergency Center during the holiday season, specialists treat a variety of injuries ranging from bicycle accidents that result in cuts and bruises to car crashes that result in devastating head injuries. More than one-third of all injuries to children (36 percent) are falls, 12 percent involve motor vehicle accidents, 9 percent are burns, 8 percent are motor vehicle/pedestrian collisions and 4 percent are bicycle accidents.

"Children are very quick and very creative, and an accident can happen in an instant," said Dr. Moore-Olefumi, who also is an assistant professor of pediatric surgery at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. "A parent might release a child's hand while walking to the car at the mall, and the child darts in front of a car; or a toddler could pull on the electrical cord to the TV and cause the TV to fall on them."

Holiday activities, social commitments and children out of school and needing extra supervision also can cause significant stress to adults and caregivers. Family stressors play a part in 16 percent of holiday injuries to children.

Parents can avoid losing patience with children by seeking additional family support, taking a moment to think before reacting to a child's behavior, and leaving the room when tempers flare.

"Planning, preparation and consistent supervision of youngsters can help families stay safe and injury-free during the busy holiday season and beyond," Dr. Moore-Olefumi said.

 

Tip Sheet: How to prevent common childhood injuries during the holidays

Falls

  • Be sure that doors to balconies and patios are secure.
  • Install child safety gates near stairs.
  • If you open windows to balance the temperature in your home, keep children away from the area and be sure the windows are locked when closed.
  • Supervise infants in "bouncy seats." Keep seats flat on the floor and never place on furniture.
  • Be aware of the dangers of falling televisions, which have caused serious injury and even death in toddlers.
  • Be sure the TV is out of reach and on a stable surface. Toddlers may try to pull up or climb on the TV, causing it to fall.
  • Do not track TV cords across the floor or through doorways. Toddlers may play with or pull on cords and cause the TV to fall.

Motor vehicle accidents

  • Ensure that all passengers are secured in seat belts or safety seats.
  • Children under 12 years old and 80 pounds must ride in the back seat.
  • Read the directions on child safety seats; many seats are installed incorrectly.
  • Be sure the safety seat is anchored to the seat belt. Improperly anchored seats can cause children to become projectiles in a crash.

Motor vehicle/pedestrian crashes

  • Always hold your child's hand near vehicles, especially near stores and in parking lots. Even children who know to be careful around cars can become easily distracted and dart into traffic.
  • Teach your child the rules of the road and car safety rules.

Burns

  • Never hold a child while preparing meals. Many scald burns to children are caused by steam or hot liquid spills near the stove.
  • Do not put your child in a "bouncy seat" in the kitchen while cooking. The seats can easily turn over.
  • Do not let children prepare hot foods such as popcorn, hot cocoa and soup.

Bicycle injuries

  • Make sure all riders have properly fitting helmets and safety gear.
  • Never let small children ride unattended.
  • Instruct children not to play or perform tricks on bikes. Children can sustain serious injury if they are impaled by handlebars.

Family stressors

  • Before you react to a child's behavior, count to 10 or leave the room.
  • Reach out to family members for support.
  • For additional parenting support, contact your local church or community outreach programs.