Falls the number one cause of children’s injuries

Red Cross War Memorial Childrens Hospital. Picture: Dwayne Evans

Falls were the number-one
cause of all injuries seen at
Red Cross War Memorial
Children’s Hospital last year.

According to Professor Sebastian van As, the head of the hospital’s trauma unit, Red Cross treated more than 2 800 children last year for serious falls – 5% more than 2018.

“Children are naturally curious, and, while exploring the world around them, they will fall, though not all falls require treatment. However, many children sustain injuries so serious that it requires treatment or hospitalisation.”

Falls accounted for 60 percent of head injuries at the hospital, he said.

Children aged 5 and younger are at the greatest risk of fall-related injuries.

According to Professor Van As, 64% of the falls happen at home, 17% in the playground and 16% at school.

Children aged 5 to 12 are at greater risk of falling at school or in the playground.

Yolande Baker, executive director of ChildSafe, said the world was a magical place filled with new adventures and discoveries for crawling babies. But those new adventures came with hidden perils.

“From a child’s perspective, everything is a potential mountain to climb like a giant bookshelf, or an obstacle to overcome like stairs or mysterious places to investigate anywhere beyond the safety gate.”

ChildSafe is a campaign of the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Southern Africa and a member of Safe Kids Worldwide. It recommends these safety steps for preventing falls:

Keep children from climbing near windows.

Secure children when seated. Keep babies and young children strapped in when using high chairs, infant carriers, swings and strollers. If your baby is in a carrier, remember to place it on the floor, not on top of a table or other furniture.

Help babies learn to stand and walk safely. Baby walkers do not come with safety features that prevent them from rolling down the stairs, and it’s easy for children to fall or reach higher objects that may be unsafe.

Play on soft surfaces at playgrounds. Take your children to playgrounds with shock-absorbing surfaces such as rubber, synthetic turf, sand, pea gravel, wood chips or mulch. If your child falls, the landing will be more cushioned than on asphalt, concrete, grass or dirt.

Use a shopping trolley for children. If you are placing your child in a shopping trolley seat, use a harness or safety belt. If the belt is missing or broken, select another cart.

Watch out for the stairs. Use approved safety gates at the tops and bottoms of stairs and attach them to the wall, if possible. Actively supervise toddlers on stairs. Hold their hands when walking up and down stairs.

If a fall does occur, do not try to move your child; call emergency services for help at 112 or 10177.

For more information on prevention of falls, call ChildSafe at 021 685 5208 or visit www.childsafe.org.za