Knowing about common accidents in childhood (and learning First Aid) is essential to keep children safe.
According to CDC statistics, accidental injuries is the leading cause of death under the age of 1 year, and fifth leading cause of death over the age of 1 year. Among the accidental deaths, suffocation or choking is the leading cause under the age of 1 year; drowning between the age of 1-4 years, and road traffic accidents between 15-19 years.
Why is there such safety risk in children?
The increased safety risk in children is because they are physically and mentally immature; curious to explore and experiment, and have practically, no sense of danger or self-preservation. They are often dependent on adults for supervision.
What are the common accidents in childhood?
Some of the common accidents in childhood are:
- Suffocation (Choking)
- Road traffic accidents
- Sharp object injuries
- Electrical injuries
- Furniture toppling
Suffocation or choking is the commonest accidental cause of death under the age of 1 year. Suffocation or choking causes asphyxiation or cutting down of oxygenation to brain.
The baby can suffocate while sleeping if sleeping on the tummy or by getting trapped in or under the loose mattress, pillow, beddings, blankets, soft toys, or other objects kept in the bed. Use of Soft mattress, pillows or comforters; and Bed-sharing with adults increases the baby’s risk of such accidental suffocation.
Choking on small objects such as coins, beads or toy-parts; on hard foods such as nuts or candies; on sticky or big food-boluses, or on vomited food are common accidents in early years. Accidental suffocation can happen during role-play with plastic bags over the head, or strangulation by curtain-strings or ropes.
Drowning is the most common cause of accidental death for 1 to 4 year-old children.
Majority of drownings in this age-group take place in domestic swimming pools. Young Children can drown in hardly 2 inches or 6 centimeters of water. So, such drownings can happen in bucket, bathtub, toilet bowl, kitchen sink, inflatable pool or any water reservoir.
In older children and adolescents, there are more chances of drowning in natural water bodies.
Lack of adult supervision, lack of safety barriers and lack of swimming ability are major risk factors.
Falls are among most common accidents in childhood. They can lead to all sorts of injuries- minor or major, superficial or deep, external or internal; and soft tissue or bony.
Outside home, falls happen during rides, slides or skateboarding. They can also happen during running, jumping or climbing during playground or play-area activities.
It is often overlooked that many serious falls can take place at home from windows, stairs, cribs, cots, high chairs and not to forget, baby-walkers. Wet floor is also an important cause of falls.
Burns are injuries that can occur from exposure to Heat (from fire, steam, hot liquids, hot surfaces); Chemicals (like strong acids); Radiation; Sunlight or Electricity. Depending on the depth of skin and tissue injury, they are classified into First, Second, Third and Fourth Degree burn injuries.
In toddlers and children, Heat-related burns from scalding and flames are more common. 75 percent cases of Scalding burns in children are preventable.
Playing with fire in kitchen, fireplace, barbecue pit or camp fires or playing with matchsticks, cigarette lighters or firecrackers are risk factors for flame-related burns.
Kitchen-related burns can also happen from tipping hot foods, liquids or contact with hot vessels. Hot water in bathtubs or taps causes most of the hospitalizations and deaths in scalding burn cases.
Poisoning is among common accidents in childhood. 13 percent of overall accidental poisonings happen in children and young adults.
Young children, curious to explore with all senses, often ingest poisonous substances. Their smaller weights and immature physiologic mechanisms make them more susceptible to toxicity of ingested poisons.
Adolescents and young adults often fall prey to peer pressure and risk-taking; leading to poisoning with alcohol or drugs.
Over the counter medicines, prescription medicines, household chemicals such as bleach, kerosene, detergents, cleaning agents, disinfectants or cosmetics; Pesticides; Poisonous plants and bites of animals or insects are the major causes of childhood poisonings.
Road Traffic Accidents
Road traffic accidents are common causes of accidental injuries in children. In fact, according to CDC. it is the leading cause of accidental deaths in 15-19 years.
Children’s small stature makes it difficult for them to see the surrounding traffic, and also, makes it difficult for drivers and others to see them. Immature physical, cognitive and social development; tendency for impulsivity, and lack of focus make children more likely to miss the impending traffic dangers. Their softer skulls make serious head injuries more likely.
Risk-taking behaviour in adolescents compromises their safety in traffic.
Sharp object injuries
Sharp object injuries are common accidents in childhood. Children can accidentally hurt themselves by sharp objects like knives, scissors, razorblades, sharp furniture edges or broken glass. This can lead to minor or major injuries.
Electrical injuries are uncommon but can lead to significant morbidity and mortality. Contact with Open accessible electric points, live wires, or faulty appliances; and lightening strikes can cause such injuries in children, which can lead to burns or even heart rhythm disturbances, including cardiac arrest.
Furniture toppling or tip-over is an often overlooked but serious accidental injury in children. Free-standing furniture like drawer-chests, cupboards, bookcases, mirrors and television are often unstable and can topple and injure children, especially those under the age of 10 years. Such accidents can lead to cuts, wounds, fractures, dislocations, crush injury and internal injuries including head injury. They can even lead to death because of asphyxiation.