Healthy Living in the North

Preventing child falls in the home and at play

Children play on a net at a playground.

Summer is a great time of year to think about how to prevent child falls in the home and outdoors.

Did you know that falls are the leading cause of injury in BC children from birth to 14 years old?

I’m a parent and a nurse. Like all parents and caregivers, I want to keep my kids safe while allowing them to have fun and be physically active. I’m always amazed by how quickly children’s skills and abilities can change as they develop from one stage to the next. You can never be sure what they might get up to next!

Falls are a normal part of child development

Children are naturally curious, and they learn by playing and exploring in their environments. Falls and tumbles are a normal part of child development, and many falls result in no more than a minor scrape or bruise. Still, each year, more than 140,000 children are seen in emergency departments across Canada for more serious fall-related injuries.

Preventing serious fall-related injuries

Summer is a great time to think about how to prevent child falls in the home and outdoors. As temperatures rise, many of us open our windows to let in the warm, fresh air. For children under five years old, injuries often happen in the home and involve a fall from furniture, stairs, or a window.

Creating a child-friendly home

Children have large heads compared to the rest of their body. This affects their balance and puts them at risk of getting a head injury from a fall.

For information on how to create a child-friendly home, check out Home safety: Around the house from Parachute. There’s also information about head injuries on the Northern Health’s concussion page.

A child's feet are near the edge of a platform on a playground.

Each year, more than 140,000 children are seen in emergency departments across Canada for serious fall-related injuries.

Don’t let a preventable injury ruin your family’s outdoor summer fun

The sunny weather also draws families outdoors to enjoy activities such as biking, swimming, or going to the playground. Don’t let a preventable injury ruin your family’s outdoor summer fun! Parachute is a great online resource for injury prevention information.

Here are some easy precautions that Parachute suggests parents and caregivers take to prevent serious falls and help kids stay safe:

  • Use window stops and keep balcony doors locked.
  • Use stair gates in your home.
  • Place all furniture away from windows and balcony door handles.
  • Make sure playground equipment has barriers, is properly anchored and in good condition, and has a deep, soft surface.
  • Practise active supervision while still giving your child the chance to explore and develop.

More information

Dana Vigneault

About Dana Vigneault

Dana has worked in Public Health since 2007. She joined the Population Health team in 2018, as a Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. She is excited to be engaged in upstream initiatives, focused on preventing injuries and promoting healthy communities. Dana lives in Terrace with her husband and two children and enjoys spending time in the garden, at the lake and in the mountains.

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Learning from Nana: Making small changes to prevent falls and stay independent

Old photograph of a woman.

Amy’s Nana taught her some valuable lessons on healthy aging and staying independent.

At 90 years old, my Nana still splashed her face 10 times each morning with cold water – a tip she once read in a fashion magazine from celebrity Marilyn Monroe to keep the skin free of wrinkles. After this morning splash, Nana would dress and prepare to leave the retirement home for ice cream with her boyfriend (the only eligible bachelor in the facility who still held a valid driver’s licence).

While the story is endearing, it also shares a valuable lesson about aging: none of us ever believe we really do age. We may believe we gain wisdom or earn some much-needed free time through retirement, but it is hard for any of us to imagine the physical changes to our body that lead to a loss of independence. Even at 90, Nana did not compromise her lifestyle. She and the family just found ways to manage some of the risks that accompany aging.

Change is hard at any age so it is important to plan for it.

This year, BC Seniors Falls Prevention Awareness Week is November 7-13. Falls pose the greatest risk of injury and hospitalization to adults over age 65. I want everyone to know there are things you can do to reduce the risk and maintain your independence.

FindingBalanceBC has 4 protective factors that can reduce the risk of falls:

#1: Exercise

  • The more you move, the more your body can support changes in balance.

#2: Annual vision testing

  • Yearly vision testing is covered by MSP for those people over age 65.

#3: Home safety evaluation

  • Keeping your independence is often a matter of making small changes at home. Think handrails, grab bars, walking aids, better lighting, etc.

#4: Medication review

  • Be sure to keep a current list of all medications you take to share with your health care providers.

We all have a role to play when it comes to the safety of our loved ones. When Nana’s boyfriend was no longer able to drive, for example, she just called us to take the two of them for ice cream! Even children can help by taking a safety superhero challenge!

What’s the saying? “It is not the years in our lives, but the life in our years that matter” (Abraham Lincoln)

Plan to make the small changes needed to stay injury free and independent for the longest possible time!

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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Preventing falls: Seniors’ Fall Prevention Awareness Week

City street in the winter

With winter slipperiness comes an increased risk of falling. Take steps to prevent falls this winter!

It’s that time of year again! Winter is creeping its way around the corner. As I walked outside this morning, I could see my breath in the cool, crisp air as I exhaled. The grass was covered in sparkly frost that crinkled and crunched as I did my morning chores. I love the fresh fall and winter mornings when there is no wind and everything is glistening. It is really quite pretty – almost surreal.

Winter is my favorite time of year, so the first few cool fall mornings always make the butterflies come alive in my stomach as I anticipate the fluffy white stuff! As I walk about carefully scraping my truck windows, buckling up, and driving to work, however, I am quickly reminded that with all the beauty in this winter wonderland, things become very slippery! Roads, walkways, stairs, and other surfaces become a little slicker and we have to be just a little more careful.

With winter slipperiness comes an increased risk of falling. On a few occasions, I’ve definitely found myself on the ground, looking up at the clouds before I even had a chance to catch myself! Does anyone else find it challenging to stay safely on your feet?

This task becomes even harder as we age. One in three people aged 65 years and older fall every year, which can lead to an older adult getting hurt so badly that they lose their ability to live independently. So, in the spirit of Seniors’ Fall Prevention Awareness Week (November 3-9, 2014), take the time to think about how you can prevent falls for yourself and those you love with these tips:

  • Be physically active in order to strengthen muscles. Healthy Families BC has some great examples of how to stay active as you age.
  • Get your eyes checked to detect vision problems.
  • Make a list of all of your medications and supplements and ask your pharmacist to review them, looking for combinations that cause dizziness or impaired judgement.
  • Don’t wear loose-fitting slippers or shoes with worn-out tread since bad footwear can lead to slips, trips, and falls.
  • Don’t let the fear of falling stop you from being active. If you’ve fallen before, you may be afraid of falling again. But physical activity helps keep you strong, which can prevent future falls and fractures.
  • Drink enough water. Dehydration puts you at higher risk for falling.
  • Remove the clutter. Things on the floor can cause you to trip or stumble.
  • Install grab bars in your bathroom to help with getting in and out of the tub. Grab bars can look stylish, too – get some in white or chrome.
  • Get some new lighting. Dark corners can limit visibility and lead to a fall. As a bonus, most new lighting fixtures use very little electricity.
  • Learn more about fall-proofing your home from HealthLinkBC.

Finally, if you are an older adult or have an aging loved one, check out the following resources from SeniorsBC:

Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie grew up in rural Newfoundland and moved to B.C. in 2003. After graduating from the nursing program at Thompson Rivers University in 2007 she moved to Prince George to start her career. She has a passion for population and public health and is the Regional Lead for Sexual and Reproductive Health. After falling in love with the north she purchased a rural property and began to build her hobby farm and family. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found happily doing something outside on her farm with her family.

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