ANDERSON — School’s out, the days are longer and the weather is warmer. It’s a perfect time for the children to head outside and play.
But along with the fun comes the potential for more injury.
As Indiana’s only level 1 pediatric trauma center, Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis views the summer as trauma season. Of the 1,200 cases they see per year, about 45 percent occur between the beginning of May until the end of August.
”We certainly know summer time tends to be very busy with trauma,” said Dr. Robert Collins, director of emergency services at Riley. “It’s driven by more daylight hours, more activity.”
And hospitals in Madison County begin to see an increase in children with injuries, too.
Joni Brinkman, director of Community Hospital’s emergency room department, said they see injuries ranging from falls off playground equipment to car accidents as doctors treat kids with cuts, sprains and fractures resulting from falls, bike and ATV accidents and sport injuries, among others.
While accidents like a kid falling off the monkey bars will happen, Collins said, he and Brinkman, along with some parents, agree that many of these incidents are preventable.
”Parents really need to be aware of what children are doing,” Brinkman added.
Charles and Heather Borton, of Anderson, have three kids ranging from age 4 to 7 to watch out for.
Heather said they’ve taught them lessons like looking both ways before crossing the street, not talking to strangers and the importance of sunblock. Charles added that they keep the kids hydrated during hot temperatures and don’t let them play outside alone.
But there are still concerns about drivers not paying enough attention to their surroundings as the family likes to ride bikes over to Shadyside Park in the summer.
And Heather tells the kids “don’t go further than I can see you.”
”We never let them out of our sight,” she added. “The problem nowadays is that some people don’t watch their children as well as they should.”
Collins said parents really just need to provide appropriate places for children to play, such as the backyard rather than front sidewalk, and ensure their children are taking safety precautions, such as wearing helmets.
Last summer, Brinkman said, the ER staff saw an increase in patients from near-drowning incidents with kids wanting to stay cool in the hot, dry weather. It doesn’t take long for a child to slip under the water and go unconscious.
When “kids are in and around water trying to stay cool,” Collins said, they need to be supervised. He also suggested keeping pools covered or fenced.
At Riley, he said, they see cases ranging from severe sunburns that can be painful and damage the skin to lawnmower accidents that are “gruesome” and often result in the loss of limb.
Dr. Thomas Rouse, director of Riley’s Pediatric Trauma Center, said he’s seen kids fall off a parent’s lap on riding lawnmowers and get run over.
”Kids are quick,” he added. “They can be in the kitchen one minute and outside the next.”
And while Riley Hospital sees multiple children struck by vehicles riding their bicycles, ATV accidents “tend to be severe and serious,” Collins said.
”We see a lot of ATV accidents with devastating injuries that tend to be preventable,” he noted.
Children should only drive appropriate sized four-wheelers, wear helmets and be supervised when young, Collins added.
In just the first few days of June, there were two separate incidents involving children hurt on an ATV and a scooter in Madison County. In both cases, police said the parents would likely be cited.
As the Fourth of July grows closer, Collins said awareness needs to be raised about fireworks safety as there’s “nothing like kids getting explosives to play with.” It can often lead to injuries such as burns, he said.
And then, of course, there’s the possibility of burns with the barbecues and campfires families like to indulge in during summer months.
One of the most preventable incidents is from people leaving children in hot cars, Collins said. In 95-degree weather, it can take minutes — just long enough for mom to run into the grocery store to get milk — for a baby to have a heatstroke.
”Parents really have to use a great deal of diligence,” he said. “Tragedy can strike in a moment’s notice.”
Regina Cannaday, of Anderson, has already raised her kids and has eight grandchildren. She said her biggest fear is someone snatching the kids away so she constantly supervises them when they’re playing.
”You just have to keep a close eye on them,” she said.
Because children don’t always see the dangers adults do, she added it’s important to teach them safety. And it doesn’t hurt to be strict.
”If you say no, you mean no,” she said.
Parents never think it’ll be their children hurt in incidents, Cannaday said, but it can happen.
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Summertime is a time for fun, but it's also when more children are injured in accidents. Here are a few tips the doctors who see them have to offer for safety:
- Always make sure your child is wearing a helmet on a bike, scooter, ATV, etc.
- Make sure your child's bicycle or ATV is the appropriate size for them.
- Always supervise children when they are swimming, playing near campfires, lighting fireworks, etc.
- Never leave a child locked in a car just to run inside.
- Provide a safe place for your child to play, such as in the backyard,