Thoughtful Parenting: Protect the people you love from falls

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We all want to keep our children safe and secure and help them live to their full potential.

Across the country, falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries for children birth to age 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children ages 5 and younger accounted for 23,604 emergency department visits in Colorado in 2011, and falls accounted for 45 percent of those injury-related emergency department visits, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Males in this age group accounted for more than half of the injury-related visits.

Every child falls down when they are learning to run and play. Some children benefit from the help of a pediatric therapist as they develop balance, core strength, spatial awareness and other protective factors for falling safely while running or walking.

Thankfully, many falls can be prevented or made safer, and parents and caregivers can play a key role in protecting children.

Prevention tips:

■ Play safely: Falls on the playground are a common cause of injury. Check to make sure that the surfaces under playground equipment are safe, soft, and well-maintained (such as wood chips or sand, not dirt or grass).

■ Make your home safer: Use home safety devices, such as guards on windows that are above ground level, stair gates and guard rails.

■ Keep sports safe: Make sure your child wears protective gear during sports and recreation. For example, when in-line skating, use wrist guards, knee and elbow pads and a helmet.

■ Supervision is key: Supervise young children at all times around fall hazards, such as stairs and playground equipment.

■ Learn stages of development: Consult your child’s health care providers and education providers for age-appropriate activities for your child.

Beth Watson is a public health nurse with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. The VNA has been a member of the Routt County Early Childhood Council since its inception in 1997.

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