Healthy Living in the North

Thinking about kids’ safety

Graphic that reads: helmets reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by up to 80%

Each year in Canada, preventable injuries cause 13,000 deaths, 60,000 disabilities and 3 million emergency room visits. Safe Kids Week is a great chance to ask ourselves what we can do to lower those numbers and prevent tragic injuries and death.

“Let’s be careful out there.” This mantra, going back to the 1980s police drama Hill Street Blues, resonates to this day. Consider that preventable injuries kill more Canadian children than any single disease and kill more youth than all other causes combined. Each year in Canada, preventable injuries cause 13,000 deaths, 60,000 disabilities and 3 million emergency room visits.

These figures come from Parachute, a national non-profit organization that describes itself as dedicated to preventing injury and saving lives through education and advocacy. It is also behind Safe Kids Week, which kicks off today and runs from May 4-10. This annual event strives to make us more aware of the frequency and severity of preventable childhood injuries. This year’s theme focuses on cycling and road safety.

Staying safe is an important message to communicate with children. What better way than to start with parents who are role models who influence the behaviours of their children. After all, why wear a helmet on the bike when mom doesn’t? Why stop at intersections if dad seems to just roll through?

There are a number of messages and recommendations aligned with the message of Safe Kids Week, starting with protecting your head. Wear a helmet! It should fit properly and be worn as designed because that protection cuts the risk of serious head injury by up to 80%!

Bikes should fit the kid. Make sure that your child’s bike is the right size for them, that the tires are properly inflated and the brakes work as intended. This is a great way to involve children in maintenance and awareness and it’s fun for them, too. It also helps if your child knows about the rules of the road and understands bicycle safety. Even a four-year-old can learn to stop and look before crossing a road and know to gear up before riding (even if they’re too young to be crossing the road alone).

Parent with a helmet adjusting their child's helmet. Text reads: Be a good "roll" model.

How can you be a good role model for kids? Do you wear a helmet? Obey the rules of the road?

Part of knowing the rules of the road includes knowing to ride on the right side, in the same direction as traffic, but also to stay as far right as possible. And kids should have a bell to announce their presence, especially when they are passing.

Though not a focus of the Parachute Safe Kids Week this year, we also include trampolines for special attention. A recent study by the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit of children admitted to BC Children’s Hospital found trampoline-related injuries occurred at a rate of 14.1 per 1,000 cases treated at BC Children’s Hospital emergency department (no other hospital was tracked).

Of the injuries identified as trampoline-related, fractures were the most common, followed by bruises and abrasions and sprains. The most likely points of injury were the ankle, elbow and head.

Sure, trampolines can be dangerous, but we realize they are also a lot of fun. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid injury. Safety increases with smart use: limit trampolines to one person at a time; don’t jump onto or off of the trampoline; avoid flips and somersaults which can lead to over-extension of the cervical spine. Active adult supervision is also important.

Summer is a great time to be a kid and helping them to be safe can mean that it will all be fun and games!

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.