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Preventing head injuries in children

Although no child is injury-proof, parents can take simple steps to keep their children from getting head injuries.

Car Safety

Your child should wear a seatbelt at all times when they are in a car or other motor vehicle:

  • Use a child safety seat or booster seat that is best for their age, weight, and height. A seat that fits poorly can be dangerous. Ask your health care provider, or check with your local police station, where you can have your child's car seat checked for free.
  • Children often move from car seats to booster seats when they weigh 40 pounds (lb). There are car seats that are made for children who weigh more than 40lb.
  • Car and booster seat laws vary by state. It is a good idea to keep your child in a booster seat until they are at least 4'9" tall and between 8 and 12 years old.

DO NOT drive with a child in your car when you have been drinking alcohol, used illegal drugs, or are feeling very tired.

Wearing a Helmet

Helmets help to prevent head injuries. Your child should wear a helmet that fits properly for the following sports or activities:

  • Playing contact sports, such as lacrosse, ice hockey, football
  • Riding a skateboard, scooter, or in-line skates
  • Batting or running on the bases during baseball or softball games
  • Riding a horse
  • Riding a bike
  • Sledding, skiing, or snowboarding

Your local sporting goods store, sports facility, or bike shop will be able to help make certain the helmet fits properly. You can also contact the American League of Bicyclists -- www.bikeleague.org .

Almost all major medical organizations recommend against boxing of any sort, even with a helmet.

Older children should always wear a helmet when riding a snowmobile, motorcycle, scooter, or all-terrain vehicle (ATV). If possible, children should not ride on these vehicles.

After having a concussion or mild head injury , your child may need a helmet. Always talk with your health care provider about when to return to activities.

Keeping Your Child Safe in the Home

Install window guards on all windows that can be opened.

Use a safety gate at the top and the bottom of stairs until your child can safely go up and down. Keep stairs free of any clutter. DO NOT let your children play on stairs or jump on or from furniture.

DO NOT leave a young infant alone on a high place such as a bed or sofa. When using a high chair, make sure your child is strapped in with the safety harness.

Store all firearms and bullets in a locked cabinet.

Outdoor Safety

Make sure playground surfaces are safe. They should be made of shock-absorbing material, such as rubber mulch.

Keep your children away from trampolines, if possible.

Bed Safety

Some simple steps can keep your child safe in bed:

  • Keep the side rails on a crib up.
  • DO NOT let your child jump on beds.
  • If possible, do not buy bunk beds. If you must have a bunk bed, check online reviews before buying. Make sure the frame is strong. Also make sure there is a side rail on the upper bunk. The ladder should be strong and attach firmly to the frame.

References

Stippler M. Trauma of the nervous system: craniocerebral trauma. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 50B.

US Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heads up. Facts for physicians about mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI). Available at: www.cdc.gov/concussion/headsup/pdf/facts_for_physicians_booklet-a.pdf. Accessed September 3, 2014.

Updated: 9/3/2014

Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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