Falls Prevention Awareness – Part 2: Falls in Kids and Teens

Posted on September 22, 2017 by kerri

As I shared in our post on Wednesday, falls are most common in older adults, and children under 5 years old. These populations are most likely to sustain serious injury from falls. Children under 5 are not the only ones at risk of fall related injury, however. Infants, pre-schoolers, children and adolescents all have specific risks that may affect them, whether that is how their body has developed to a certain point—as is the case with babies and younger children—or the activities they are taking part in, where “riskier” activities and sports are the norm.

Small child standing on a chair reaching for something.

Falls Prevention for Infants

Infants are most likely to fall from change tables, cribs, and being placed on counter tops and not being held on to. [1.1] Adults changing babies on change tables should always keep one hand on the infant—even if the infant is too young to move, it is a good habit to get into. Stairs can also pose risk to unsupervised infants [1.1]—stair gates should be used at all times once a child is even remotely mobile. Windows should be kept closed if there is a chance a child could climb up and fall out, as well. Infants can sustain very severe injuries from even short falls—head injury, concussion or fracture of bones, can occur with any fall. [1.1]

Falls prevention for pre-school and school-aged children

While some kids seem to fall all the time and get up just fine, this isn’t always the case. Playground injuries are one of the most common reasons children are sent to the emergency department each year. [1.1] Falling off of play structures or swings is the most common reason for injury in children [1.1]—using this equipment properly often can be prevented by ensuring children are supervised, have help to try equipment they are not yet able to use safely, and ensuring playground equipment is maintained safely and that the surfaces beneath play structures are suitable to help children be safer if they do fall.

Falls prevention for teens, older children, and those involved in “extreme sports”

Teenagers and adolescents most often fall during sports or physical activities. [1.1] Concussion, other head injury, sprain and fracture, are the most common injuries affecting those under 20. [1.1] Winter sports are common sites of injury, such as skiing or hockey, whereas anything involving wheels in summer may pose greater risk—skateboarding, rollerblading, cycling, and trampoline—are the most common reasons Canadians under 20 may need to seek emergency care or are hospitalized for injury. [1.2]

Prevention of falls in this population may not be as easy, but risk can be minimized by enforcing sensible choices: helmets should be worn in activities requiring them. [1.2] Bright colours, wrist/elbow/knee guards and helmets for skateboarding and rollerblading, and appropriate padding for scootering (no wrist guards), proper footwear and safe location (skateboard parks, well-lit areas), should all be factors considered when heading out on wheels of any sort. [1.2] Approved hockey-style helmets should be worn for ice sports as well as skiing and snowboarding. [1.3]

Trampolines are fun but are also a common source of injury. The Canadian Pediatric Society advises against using trampolines at home. [1.4] Neck and back injuries which may be serious are caused frequently by flips or somersaults on trampolines—these injuries may be permanent and severe.  [1.4] If trampolines are used, it is recommended that adequate padding and netting surround the trampoline, and that this be inspected regularly—if it is damaged, the trampoline should not be used until it is replaced. [1.4] Children should always be supervised by adults, and they should not attempt flips or somersaults. [1.4]

Staying safe on the road

Children and teens, as well as adults, who participate in road sports regularly should wear a sports medical ID bracelet—this will allow all medical needs to be communicated if the person is unconscious, or for an emergency contact to be called quickly to authorize care for children.

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