Healthy Living in the North

Making sure spring is injury-free!

snow, spring, outdoors

As the snow starts to melt, visions of spring and summer activities start to bloom in our minds. Remember to play safe!

Finally, the snow is melting, tulips are blooming, and spring has sprung! Well, maybe spring hasn’t exactly sprung yet but we know it will, sooner or later. I think it’s fair to say that most people feel a new kind of energy as spring arrives. We’re excited to get outside more, be more active, play in the dirt and enjoy the outdoors again in ways that we haven’t been able to throughout the winter.

As an injury prevention coordinator, I start to wonder what we can all do to keep ourselves safe from preventable injuries during the spring time. And, what do we do differently in the spring than in winter that might have some risk attached to it?

I know a lot of people are excited to get out their quads, side by sides and dirt bikes now that there is a lot less snow. But I also know that while riding an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) or ORV (off-road vehicle) can be great fun, there are some very real dangers and risks associated with them, especially for children and youth. These youngsters experience much higher than average rates of injuries and hospitalizations as a result of riding ATVs.

I know that toddlers, children and youth are excited to get back on their trikes, bikes, scooters and skateboards because they can finally see the pavement again, or at least some hard packed dirt instead of snow and ice. But I also know that they’re still young, they don’t always remember to wear a helmet or look both ways, and drivers who aren’t used to seeing young children riding on the roadways don’t always remember to slow down and watch for pedestrians.

I know that many people are in spring cleaning mode and are eager to clean, purge, get rid of, and sell many things that have been cluttering up their garage all winter. But I also know that people will unknowingly sell unsafe or illegal items, such as baby walkers,  expired car seats or booster seats, and baby gates, just to name a few.

I also approached a few of my co-workers and asked them, “When you think of spring time and injuries, what things come to mind?” and every single one of them said slipping or falling on ice was their biggest concern. While I was a bit surprised that this was a unanimous response, their concern is warranted, considering falls are the number one injury that require hospitalization across the north, and indeed, across B.C. So now I ask you: “What injury risks are you aware of as spring approaches and what can you do to prevent an injury?” Let’s make this spring injury-free across northern B.C.!

Lynette Hewitt

About Lynette Hewitt

Lynette Hewitt works in Fort St. John as an Injury Prevention Coordinator for Northern Health. After receiving a BScN from UNBC, Lynette traveled a bit, then returned to her hometown of Fort St. John where she worked in med/surg, public health nursing, and home nursing care before settling into her current role. When not at work, she is trying to keep up with life as a busy wife and mom, which may or may not include time for snowshoeing, hiking, biking, camping, fishing, geocaching and, for a few short months, gardening!

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Concussion helmets are not a free pass

A young boy wears a hockey helmet to help prevent injury.

Helmets may help prevent injury, but no helmet can fully protect a person who is in the recovery stages of a concussion.

I was at a garage sale this past summer, scouting the piles, looking for a deal, when I came across a big pile of sports equipment, all of which was in great shape. There were several “like new” hockey helmets there. I know they can withstand multiple impacts, so getting a used one isn’t necessarily a bad idea. I picked one up to take a closer look and asked the lady hosting the sale what the price was. She said, “Well I’m asking a little more for that one because it’s a concussion helmet.” I said, “A concussion helmet? I’ve never heard of that. Does that mean that even if they have a concussion, they can still play if they’re wearing this helmet?” She responded, “Oh yeah, it’s designed for that.” I just about choked! My first thought was, “Geez… I work in injury prevention, why haven’t I heard of this kind of helmet before? My second thought was, “That just makes no sense to me at all!! How on earth could the padding and external design of a helmet have anything to do with what’s going on with the brain inside?”

So, I did some research. In a nutshell, the person selling the helmet was wrong. That’s because anyone with a concussion shouldn’t be playing a game or participating in a sport that puts them at risk for getting another one. They should be watching from the sidelines while their brain heals or resting their body and their brain at home.

At the end of the day, this story not only reinforces the importance of preventing and treating concussions. It also underscores the importance of using common sense where safety is concerned. If it doesn’t make sense, question it. If you don’t understand something, learn more about it. As parents, we have a huge role in keeping our children safe and healthy. That includes questioning and sometimes breaking trends, even if they are the social norm.

For more information on concussion resources and programs, such as Concussion Guidelines and the Smart Hockey program, visit Parachute Canada.

And don’t forget to enter the Falls Across the Ages contest.

Lynette Hewitt

About Lynette Hewitt

Lynette Hewitt works in Fort St. John as an Injury Prevention Coordinator for Northern Health. After receiving a BScN from UNBC, Lynette traveled a bit, then returned to her hometown of Fort St. John where she worked in med/surg, public health nursing, and home nursing care before settling into her current role. When not at work, she is trying to keep up with life as a busy wife and mom, which may or may not include time for snowshoeing, hiking, biking, camping, fishing, geocaching and, for a few short months, gardening!

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The riddle of youth falls

Girl plays soccer.

A young girl who is sure to get her fair share of bumps and bruises plays her first soccer game.

As safe as possible? Or as safe as necessary?

Sound like gibberish or a riddle? It’s neither. Let me explain…

If we were trying to make this world as safe as possible, so that our kids never fell building codes would include a ban on stairs, swings would be illegal, any play structure higher than ground level would be torn down and minor sports would cease to exist because all of these contribute our kids falling and getting hurt. Eventually, I’m pretty sure we’d refuse to let our kids leave the house unless they were bubble wrapped, wearing a permanently affixed helmet and armed with two tracking devices (in case the battery on the first dies).

But, that’s not all feasible, is it? So, when we discuss keeping our kids as safe as necessary, we’re talking about putting a helmet on them when they go bike riding or snowboarding so that they can grow up able to feed themselves, talk with their friends, choose a career and go biking or snowboarding again.

Being as safe as necessary means knowing how to prevent concussions and knowing the signs, symptoms and proper treatment, so that you aren’t putting your hockey star kid back in the game without realizing that his or her growing brain has been injured. It means knowing that while a child is healing from a head injury, the chances of another concussion are even greater and the risk of life-long damage is higher.

As safe as necessary means realizing that teaching our 10-year-olds how to head the ball in soccer might conflict with our wish to watch them grow into emotionally, socially, and intellectually healthy young adults. And that they don’t have to head the ball to have fun with their friends, play a great game, score some awesome goals and be strong and active.

There are many cases where ignorance is not bliss, and this is one of them. No parent that I know would ever knowingly sign their child up for a limp, a disfigurement, a wheelchair, loss of independence, social isolation, depression, failed relationships, unemployment, etc. But by not being aware of the risk of a real, serious injury and taking steps to prevent it, isn’t that exactly the risk they are taking?

To learn how to ‘get in the game,’ visit ParachuteCanada.org.

Lynette Hewitt

About Lynette Hewitt

Lynette Hewitt works in Fort St. John as an Injury Prevention Coordinator for Northern Health. After receiving a BScN from UNBC, Lynette traveled a bit, then returned to her hometown of Fort St. John where she worked in med/surg, public health nursing, and home nursing care before settling into her current role. When not at work, she is trying to keep up with life as a busy wife and mom, which may or may not include time for snowshoeing, hiking, biking, camping, fishing, geocaching and, for a few short months, gardening!

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Refusing unsafe work

I was doing a quick Google search, hoping to come up with an interesting link or webpage that put an informative but fun spin on how being safe and healthy during our personal time affects whether we’re safe and healthy at work. After several strike outs, something caught my eye…a link to a page that was titled “Refusing Unsafe Work.”

Which got me thinking…about the irony of it all!

There are laws and policies in place that give us, as workers, the right to refuse unsafe work, and those rights are protected fiercely. And yet, so often when we go home from work, we engage in any number of activities without even thinking about how safe they are, and we’re certainly not concerned about whether or not we have the ‘right to refuse’ to do them.

It’s like there is this weird mentality shift…somehow, when we’re at work, it’s the employer’s job to keep us safe, yet when we’re at home, it’s our job. But if that’s the case, then why aren’t we ‘refusing to engage’ in unsafe practices? Why are we, as a society, still drinking and driving? Not wearing helmets when we’re off-road quadding? Drinking alcohol and not wearing life jackets while boating with friends? Can you imagine the kerfuffle if ANY of that occurred while we were on the job? And the outrage at our employer because they had shirked their responsibility to keep us safe at work?

Oh but wait…I can almost hear you saying, ‘yeah, but that won’t happen to me.’ Wanna bet? It happens to people like you every minute of every day, throughout BC and even more here in the north. So, in the words of preventable.ca

20130917LHewitt-InjuryPrevention1

At the end of the day, it’s pretty simple. If you keep yourself safe at work, you’ll be better able to spend quality time with your family when you go home. If you keep yourself safe at home, you’ll be better able to go to work and spend time with your co-workers and colleagues, doing an excellent job at whatever you do.

The moral of the story? Stay safe, your workplace needs you; but more importantly, stay safe, your family and friends need you!

Lynette Hewitt

About Lynette Hewitt

Lynette Hewitt works in Fort St. John as an Injury Prevention Coordinator for Northern Health. After receiving a BScN from UNBC, Lynette traveled a bit, then returned to her hometown of Fort St. John where she worked in med/surg, public health nursing, and home nursing care before settling into her current role. When not at work, she is trying to keep up with life as a busy wife and mom, which may or may not include time for snowshoeing, hiking, biking, camping, fishing, geocaching and, for a few short months, gardening!

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Safe Kids Week 2013

Bike riding with helmets

Get out there, have fun and play hard! Safe Kids Week is a good time to remember to know the risks, wear the gear and play safe – all the time!

I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing when many people hear the term ‘injury prevention,’ they think boring, rules, gear, barriers to fun, walk don’t run – all sorts of connotations that don’t have anything to do with getting out there, having fun, and playing hard! The reality is, the main focus in preventing injuries isn’t about more rules, more legislation, more barriers to fun or anything like that…for now, it’s about more awareness. Don’t get me wrong, we have rules and regulations for a reason, and they are an important piece of the puzzle in helping us prevent certain types of injuries. But you can’t prevent much of anything if you don’t know there’s a risk of it happening in the first place, which brings us back to awareness.

That’s one of the reasons why the theme for this year’s Safe Kids Week is “Heads Up! Be Alert. Be Safe. Be Aware of Concussions.” Thanks to the media focusing on big names like Sidney Crosby, it seems like everyone knows he’s at risk for concussions. But how many people think that an 11-year-old soccer player is at risk too? The key things to think about during this year’s Safe Kids Week, which runs from May 27-June 2, are these:

  • Concussions can happen to anyone.
  • Concussions are often underdiagnosed and under-treated because the symptoms can be hard to recognize.
  • Concussions can have long-term effects.
  • Good concussion management (including both physical and emotional rest) decreases the risk of permanent brain damage.

So, in the words of preventable.ca,

Before you think only pro-athletes get concussions, have a word with yourself.

And in the words of me, get out there, have more fun, play hard…just know the risks, wear the gear and play safe so you can do it again next time!

For more information and resources about concussion awareness and prevention, visit the Safe Kids Canada webpage or preventable’s concussion campaign webpage.

Local contact information and more resources or ideas on how to promote injury prevention in your community can be found on the NH Injury Prevention webpage.

Lynette Hewitt

About Lynette Hewitt

Lynette Hewitt works in Fort St. John as an Injury Prevention Coordinator for Northern Health. After receiving a BScN from UNBC, Lynette traveled a bit, then returned to her hometown of Fort St. John where she worked in med/surg, public health nursing, and home nursing care before settling into her current role. When not at work, she is trying to keep up with life as a busy wife and mom, which may or may not include time for snowshoeing, hiking, biking, camping, fishing, geocaching and, for a few short months, gardening!

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