Commentary by Robert Blankenship, M.D.
When you consider that almost one out of every three patients that enters an emergency room is there as a result of an accident, it’s clear that first aid is a necessary skill that every adult and adolescent should possess.
It’s unfortunate, but our society could do much better in its understanding of how to respond to an emergency. With today’s information technology, a lot of people feel they can simply look up an emergency procedure when they need it. That may be too late.
Nationally, 38 million people a year go to emergency rooms after accidents due to accidents; that’s approximately 30 percent of all ER visits. The more we can reduce that number with simple preventive steps, the better. The most common reasons for these ER visits in the summer and early autumn are firework injuries, pool accidents and car accidents, but with the nicer weather also comes an increased number of bone injuries from sports, bicycles and trampolines, among other things.
When you look at who gets injured in accidents, really there are two groups that are most susceptible: the very old and the very young. With the older folks, it’s usually a result of falls. And with the younger folks, from the ages of 1 to 21, the data shows that unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death. So it’s important for parents and caregivers to know the basics of first aid and accident prevention.
Looking specifically at outdoor activities for kids, a few things that can be done to help prevent accidents include:
- When bicycling, wear a helmet flat on top of the head, not tilted back, with the chinstrap firmly buckled.
- When at a playground, make sure children are playing on cushioned ground, such as sand, shredded mulch or soft synthetic materials. Improper surfacing accounts for more than 70 percent of incidents involving children who fall at playgrounds.
- Do not dress children in clothes that have strings. Those can cause strangulation.
- Actively parent. Teach children safe play rules and intervene when necessary.
- Swings are great, but children need to be taught to keep a safer-than-you-think distance from them. Swings are the moving equipment most likely to cause injury.
If you feel a situation is a medical emergency, you should never hesitate to call 911 or go to an ER. But the more you know before that visit occurs, the better prepared you’ll be to assist in a positive outcome.
Dr. Robert Blankenship is a board-certified emergency physician with St.Vincent. For more information, visit www.stvincent.org.