our worst nightmare- a child injured in an accident. And yet each year,
an average of 390 Canadian children die and 25,500 are hospitalized
from childhood injuries making it not cancer or obesity the leading
health risk to children aged one to 14. Parents should focus most of
their energies on those hazards with a risk for a devastating injury or
death. The risk of serious injury can be reduced substantially by paying
attention to these major hazards, says Dr. Paul Dick, a pediatrician at
Grey Bruce Health Services in Owen Sound, an associate professor at the
University of Toronto’s department of pediatrics and a father of three
girls. The key is to make safety a part of your daily routine. If your
child learns that wearing a helmet while biking, or sitting restrained
in a car seat, are absolute requirements from day one, your work is
Motor vehicle crashes are the single largest cause of
death and hospitalizations for children under the age of 14.
Three-quarters of children between the ages of four to nine years don’t
use booster seats according to Safe Kids Canada, making them
particularly vulnerable in car crashes. Each year, more than 35 children
between the ages of four to nine years are killed and another 360 are
WHAT ELSE? Safety checks across the country show that as many as 80 percent of child seats inspected are not installed correctly.
WHAT TO DO:
Buckle up every time you’re in the car. Children 12 and under are
safest in the back seat, and if your car has a passenger-side airbag,
children must ride in the back seat properly buckled up. Always use the
correct booster seats for your child’s height and weight.
Children usually choke on food, especially things like raw carrots, nuts and popcorn.
Toys are the second most common item for several reasons. Parents
sometimes think their child is smart enough to play with toys designed
for older children and older siblings leave toys where younger children
can get hold of them. Broken balloon pieces can be deadly if caught in a
WHAT TO DO:
Test all toys by passing them through an empty toilet roll; if the toy
passes through, a child can choke on it. Teach older siblings about what
toys and foods are safe for younger children. Hard and round food
should be grated or cut into thin strips and children should be taught
to sit up while eating. Take a safety course to learn the signs of
choking and how to deal with it.
Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children age one
to four years. Almost half of all drowning accidents happen at swimming
WHAT ELSE? Products
such as bath seats, which allow a parent to have their hands free by
helping keep a child’s head upright, can give a false sense of security
that a child can be left alone while we answer a door or phone. But
these products can topple over and children have been known to drown in
just a few centimeters of water.
WHAT TO DO:
Children should always wear a life jacket that fits snugly when they’re
around water. Parents think that they will hear children calling for
help but its a silent killer and often you don’t hear anything.
This is the leading cause of injury and death for children aged five
to nine years. Each year 56 children are killed and about 780 are
hospitalized with severe injuries that often cause long-term
More boys than girls are injured, primarily because they tend to take
more risks and are encouraged to participate in riskier activities than
girls. Children are also impulsive and will dart into traffic without
thinking of the consequences.
WHAT TO DO:
Children under nine should not cross a street by themselves. Parents
should always hold their hands since children arent capable of making
safe decisions about traffic. Kids should be taught that they cant
always rely on traffic and crosswalk signals.
Falls are by far the most common cause of injury that brings a child
into the emergency department, says Dr. Paul Dick. For older children,
those falls usually occur in playgrounds. For younger children, the
falls are more often in the home on stairs, furniture and out of cribs
Head injuries are common in falls because young children are so top
heavy that its usually the first thing that makes contact with the
WHAT TO DO:
Always have a wall-mounted baby gate at the top and bottom of stairs
and make sure that its engaged. Install window-guard bars in the home.
Avoid putting a baby carrier or bouncy chair on a high surface, like a
counter, or a table since babies can rock themselves off.
Ingesting medication left around by adults is the leading cause of injury for children under the age of five.
Most poisonings occur in the home by swallowing innocuous products like
mouthwash and nail polish, which can seriously harm or kill a child.
WHAT TO DO:
Keep things in their original containers and place them high enough
that children will not be able to reach them. Alert grandparents
about keeping their medication bottles out of reach.
The two most common causes of serious burns to children are scalds from hot liquids and house fires.
The majority of fire deaths occur in the home, with most victims dying
from smoke or toxic gases and not from the burns. Cooking is the leading
cause of residential fires.
WHAT TO DO:
Most Canadian homes have hot water that is 60˚C which due to the
thinness of a childs skin, can burn them in about one second. Water
should be turned down to 49˚C. Ask your water heater rental company or
your landlord or purchase a tap guard from a home improvement store.
When cooking, keep pot handles turned in. Never leave children alone
around stoves or candles. Keep flammable products away from children.
Have a family fire escape plan and practice it. Install smoke detectors
on every level of the home and in every sleeping area. Test the alarms
once a month and replace batteries at least twice a year and the alarms
every 10 years.
Thirty percent of all cycling-related hospital admissions are due to
traumatic brain injuries and by far the biggest cause is because kids
dont wear helmets. Every year, 20 children under 14 die and 1,800 are
hospitalized due to bike injuries.
WHAT ELSE? The human skull is just 1 cm. thick and can be shattered by speeds of 7-10 km/hr. Kids can usually ride at 11-16 km/hr.
WHAT TO DO:
The fact is that four out of five head injuries could be prevented.
Parents should set an example by always wearing a helmet. Make sure that
your childs helmet fits properly and make sure they dont wear it over a
baseball hat or bandana. Make it a house rule that helmets are used for
every trip. Keep children off the road until theyre 10 and dont let
them ride alone.
Fourteen years ago, an Irish setter bit Judee Bramms 10-year-old son
in the neck. Although her son had known the dog for over a year, the
dog was getting old and senile. Most dog bites happen to children 10 and
under and typically the biting dog is a family pet or belongs to
someone the family knows.
Injuries associated with dog bites and dog attacks are sustained most
frequently by five-to nine-year-olds. The body part most affected is the
face, according to a 1996 survey by the Canadian Hospitals Injury
Reporting and Prevention Program.
WHAT TO DO: With
over six million dogs in Canada its crucial to teach children how to
behave around animals including learning how to pet and play with them.
Young children should never be left alone with a dog since even a
friendly dog may bite if threatened, angry or afraid.
Twenty-two children have strangled on cords from blinds and curtains since 1989; most were under the age of three.
Children also suffocate or strangle when they become trapped between
broken crib parts or between parts of an older crib with an unsafe
design. Clothing with drawstrings presents a hazard for children;
drawstrings can become entangled in playground equipment, fences, and
furniture, causing strangulation.
WHAT TO DO: Furniture
and cribs should never be placed near a window. Cut cords of blinds and
curtains to ensure that a child cannot reach them. Make sure your babys
crib mattress is big enough for the crib. The space between the crib
slats and the mattress should be smaller than the width of two adult
The sale and importation of baby walkers were banned in Canada in
2004, but there are still about 500,000 of them in the country. Children
in baby walkers can move at speeds of four feet per second and parents
often cant catch them in time to stop an injury.
About 85 percent of walker injuries are the result of a child falling
down stairs. Serious head injuries are twice as likely if a child falls
in a walker as compared to a regular fall down the stairs.
WHAT TO DO: Destroy and discard your baby walker.
Sports and recreation injuries make up close to 20 percent of all
child emergency room visits. Ice hockey, soccer, basketball, football
and baseball are the top five sports that lead to the most emergency
room visits for kids 19 and under.
WHAT ELSE? Heat-related injuries are a
particular problem for children because children perspire less than
adults and require a higher core body temperature to trigger sweating.
Playing rigorous sports in the heat requires close monitoring of both
body and weather conditions.
WHAT TO DO: Make
sure that children always wear protective gear that fits properly.
(Injuries can happen at practices as well as during games). Insure that
your childs coach is prepared to handle emergencies and is trained in
first aid and CPR. Make warmups and cool downs part of your childs
routine before and after sports participation. Make sure your child has
access to water or a sports drink while playing. Include sunscreen and a
hat (when possible) to reduce the chance of sunburn.
Guns are the third leading cause of death among Canadians from ages
15 to 24 (following motor vehicle accidents and suicide by other means).
Guns kill more youth in this age group than cancer, drowning and falls
combined, according to a study published in the Canadian Journal of
Every year more than 50 children under 18 require hospitalization from
injuries from air guns, BB guns, pellet guns, replicas and starter
pistols. The Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program
reports that air guns are the main cause of eye loss and a secondary
cause of trauma in children and young adults admitted to emergency
WHAT TO DO: Teach children that if they find a gun they must not touch it, and they should immediately tell an adult about it.
In 1968, Ralph Nader called power windows upward bound glass
guillotines that have strangled and injured thousands of children and
About 50 children have been killed in North America since power windows
were introduced in the 1960s. About 500 kids are injured every year.
WHAT TO DO:
Most European and Asian countries have autoreverse devices on their
cars; however, only 10 percent of cars in North America have that
feature and most of those are luxury models. Dont leave children alone
in a car and keep windows locked.
Kids have been seriously injured or killed by tipped televisions.
WHAT ELSE? The majority of accidents happen to children four-years-old or younger.
WHAT TO DO:
Televisions are easily tipped because they are front heavy and often
elevated for better viewing. Make sure televisions are anchored