Prevent Injuries This Summer: Tips for Parents and Caregivers
Summer is an ideal time for children to enjoy playing sports, biking, skating, skateboarding, riding scooters and trying something new!
At Weill Cornell Medicine, our physicians at the Department of Pediatrics provide expert, compassionate care to children of all ages. Here, our team offers tips and strategies for children, parents and caregivers to enjoy a healthy, active summer by preventing injuries — specifically head injuries and broken bones.
Prevent concussions in children and adolescents
Barry Kosofsky, M.D., PHD is the the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Professor of Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine and the chief of the Division of Pediatric Neurology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
“A concussion is a blow to the head that somehow impairs function. No two concussions are the same,” explained Dr. Kosofsky. Concussions can occur in any sport or recreation activity at any age — and concussions sustained before puberty may be especially damaging.
Another type of head injury is a hematoma or swelling of the scalp. If the hematoma is inside the skull, it puts increased pressure on the brain, causing brain injury. Neurological abnormalities may result and progress to coma and even death.
Signs of a brain injury may develop immediately or over first 24 to 72 hours:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Memory loss, especially trouble remembering events before or after the injury
- Vomiting or nausea
- Blurry vision, sensitivity to light or noise
- Confusion or slurred speech
- Difficulty concentrating, thinking or making decisions
- Difficulty with coordination or balance
- Anxiety or irritability for no apparent reason
The best way for children to heal after a concussion is to seek medical attention and rest. Repeat concussions may lead to permanent brain injury, so it is especially important to take precautions after suffering a concussion.
“Most children do not need medical attention or intervention for a concussion.”
Call 911 if you notice the following symptoms, which indicate a severe concussion:
- He or she is less than two years old
- Loss of consciousness (“passing out” for more than five seconds)
- Blood or clear liquid coming from the nose or ears
- The child is confused or not acting normally (altered mental status)
- The child cannot walk normally, feel or move certain parts of the body
- The child is lethargic (sleepy), irritable or difficult to console
- The child is difficult to awaken or arouse
- A large bump or swelling on head (scalp hematoma)
A concussion during childhood or adolescence may have lasting effects. Learn more by listening to an interview with Dr. Kosofsky.
Encourage helmet use
In New York state, children ages one to 14 must wear a certified helmet while bicycling, in-line skating or using a non-motorized scooter or skateboard. Riders wearing helmets have one-third the risk of sustaining a head injury. Helmets help prevent head injuries, including concussions.
As a parent or caregiver, you can encourage helmet use by:
- Starting early encouraging young children to wear helmets with their first bicycle or scooter
- Letting the child choose their helmet
- Setting an example by always wearing your own helmet
- Explaining the importance of helmets for preventing head injuries
In addition to encouraging helmet use, be sure to teach basic traffic safety, including:
- Do not ride at dusk or nighttime
- Wear reflective clothing
- Obey road signs
- Always walk across streets
- Learn hand signals
Prevent broken bones
Broken bones (or fractures) are more common during summer months. The best way to prevent broken bones is to supervise children carefully, especially while playing on trampolines and playgrounds.
Despite best efforts, falls and accidents happen. If you believe your child has a broken bone, be sure to:
- Go to an emergency department immediately
- Immobilize it by securing it to something firm
- Apply ice and elevate
- Call 911 if the fingers change color (blue) or cannot move
- Don’t give him or her anything to eat or drink until advised by your doctor (strong medication may be needed for pain and sedation)
With these tips, we hope that you and your family have your safest, healthiest and happiest summer yet!
Be sure to learn more about the comprehensive services offered by our Department of Pediatrics and Pediatric Emergency Service. Our pediatricians have earned a reputation for providing excellent patient care and educating families to become healthier and safer.