We have all been there before: you are watching a young child in all of his or her naïve fearlessness attempt a dangerous feat with bated breath. Perhaps the child is mounting a play structure at the playground, climbing a tree, or even just running through the house, dodging the sharp edges of low tabletops. Suddenly, but predictably, you watch in paralyzed terror as, seemingly in slow motion, the child’s body falls to the ground. Not wanting to scare the child, but out of an abundance of concern, you approach the child, whose immediately begins to start crying, clearly experiencing pain. What should you do next?
Although it is true that many falls result in mild injuries, falls are actually the leading cause for injury hospitalization among children under 14 years of age in the United States. According to the Healthcare Utilization Project and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, nearly 34,000 children under the age of 14 were hospitalized for unintentional falls in 2012. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently found that falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury for children under 4 years of age.Signs of Serious Injuries
Call 911 and do not move the child if he or she:
- Shows signs of having seriously injured (i.e. has significant trouble moving, or cannot move) his or her head, neck, back, hipbones, or thighs;
- Is unconscious
- Is having difficulty or is not breathing at all
- Has a seizure
If the child is not showing signs of a more serious injury, it is likely the injury suffered is mild in nature. If it is safe to move the child, be sure to comfort the child and use an ice pack for any bumps, abrasions, or bruises. Depending on the age of the child, it may also be safe to give them a children’s Tylenol, Advil, or other non-steroid anti-inflammatory medication to assist with pain. Lastly, allow the child to rest and monitor their recovery. If the child shows any unusual signs or symptoms vomits, walks differently, becomes very sleepy, or complains of increasing pain, dizziness, or blurry vision, for instance – take them to the nearest urgent care or emergency room facility.
Head injuries can be common when a child falls. While headaches can be painful, suffering a concussion can have lasting effects. Signs of a concussion include feeling pressure in the head, vomiting, nausea, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, numbness, unexplained mood swings, and dizziness. Medical treatment should be sought the moment these side effects are recognized.Tips for Preventing Child Falls
Of course, nobody wants a child to suffer any type of needless injury. We have all heard that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so here are some best practices for preventing falls:
- Install safety rails on stairs and guards on windows
- Strap young kids into high chairs, changing tables, shopping carts, and strollers
- Ensure that children wear helmets, knee pads, and elbow pads when utilizing bikes, skates, skateboards, scooters, hoverboards, or playing sports
- Supervise children at all times
- Remove fall hazards
- Provide soft surfaces below playground equipment