Helping Keep Kids Safe Around The House During COVID-19

With many children away from school and out of their normal routine, this may give children an opportunity to participate in some unsafe activities around the home. Dr. John Petty, a pediatric trauma surgeon with Brenner Children's chats virtually with BestHealth about some of the recent injuries that have been treated and how families can have a balance of being active and outdoors but at the same time taking safe measures and practicing common sense.


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Episode Highlights 

How has Brenner Children’s Emergency Department looked over the past few weeks during Coronavirus?

We’ve had to cut back on non-time sensitive operations, those things that need to be done, but that can wait so that we can utilize the operating rooms for emergencies. Our clinics have been slowed down as well so that we can treat those same emergencies, but we are open and committed to treating all illnesses and injuries that children and adults will see. We are offering virtual and over the phone visits, but for those things that require hands-on care, our team of experts are here and ready to help your family with injuries, illnesses, and trauma in-person at the Brenner Children’s Emergency Department.

Now that children are home with more flexible schedules and time to do activities, what are some common injuries or incidents that you are seeing?

Historically, April and May are usually our busiest months in the Pediatric ED, now that the weather is getting better, some children are on Spring Break, and there is more daylight. The trend has continued even with Coronavirus going on. We’ve been very busy with pediatric trauma. These are the same things we generally see like falls, dirt bike injuries, broken arms, motor vehicle traffic injuries. We certainly haven’t seen those slow down.

The fact that kids are being active is a good thing. For our family, our goal is everyday everyone is expected to do something active, get outside, and exercise. That’s great to have a goal for your family like that to break up the regular routine of sitting in our chairs and staring at our screens. This can of course carry risk, such as getting injured while riding your bike. Staying active is great for children to do, but there is always risk involved. Parents can help mitigate that risk by providing adult supervision, wearing helmets, and riding in a familiar area. There is definitely a way to balance being active, but also being responsible and safe. You don’t have to limit your family’s activity, just have to be safe about it.

What advice can you give to keep kids and families safe during this time?

A lot of the things we’d normally be doing like Little League and soccer are things we are now staying away from during Coronavirus. The new “team” is the family. One route you can go is to do things active as a family while we are home together. Share in those activities to the extent that you can. Be involved, and lead by example. Put your own helmet on too to show that it’s important to you just as it should be to them. Kick or throw the ball around, play frisbee, take walks, garden, play out in an open field. You can have a good time with the family while still physically distancing from others and washing your hands. Parents also need to stay diligent and involved throughout the day, keeping an eye on children and managing screen time vs. activity time.

Kids also have access to news, stories, and information on Coronavirus and we should help give them context as they are also dealing with uncertainty and worry during this time. It’s okay to talk about this with your children and be honest with them. There are some things we can’t control, but there is a lot we can like the ability to be home as a family. You can express that this is something we are doing together. By doing this we are doing something good for us, for our neighbors, and everyone. Frame that in a way they can understand. Ask them what they’ve heard and their concerns. This will invite you into their mental framework so you can be realistic and reassuring with them. We shouldn’t talk with them about the worst case scenario or make them worry. How we handle this now will be remembered for the rest of our lives and theirs.

What are some things that kids and families should focus on to prevent injury that you see daily in the Emergency Department?

Number one thing would be wearing seatbelts and properly fitting, sizing and installing car seats. That can’t be stressed enough. Another common thing we see are burns related to being in the kitchen. Kids are getting lunch at home now rather than at school which means more time spent in the kitchen or kids making themselves food. We see a lot of accidents happen with burns from boiling water on the stovetop, heating liquid in the microwave that’s too high to reach, and coffee. We especially see this in children who aren’t tall enough to see above the stove or have to reach for things. It just takes a second for something like that to occur, so it’s important to talk through that with your family.

This time of year we are out in our yards more and the lawn mowers are something we really need to pay attention to as well. We see an uptick in injuries involving lawn mowers this time each year. My advice is that young children shouldn’t be in the yard while the lawn mower is running. Children should never ride on the mower with or without an adult. It’s not only the blades that are of a concern, but also the air that is getting sucked up into it. It should be a hard stop to playtime while the lawnmower is out. Lastly bike safety is always important. Wearing proper equipment and not taking any risks any time, but especially during this time. Bike helmets and protective equipment are great, but they don’t make you invincible, so being safe all around is important.