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Preventing head injuries in children

Although no child is injury proof, parents can take some 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 doctor or nurse, or check with your local police station, about 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. There are car seats that are made for children who weigh more than 40 pounds.
  • 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."

Do not drive in a car with a child when you have been drinking alcohol.

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 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 .

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 avoid riding on these vehicles.

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

Keeping Your Home Safe

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.

Store all firearms and bullets in a locked cabinet.

Playground Safety

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

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 buy bunk beds. If your children do have bunk beds, make sure there is a side rail and that the frame is strong.
  • Do NOT let your kids jump on beds.

References

Heads up. Facts for physicians about mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) . US Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CS 109152.CS109152

Updated: 8/1/2012

Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


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