Preventing Injuries During Social Distancing

Did you know unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in children and teens in the U.S.? In fact, every 4 seconds, a child is treated in an emergency department for injury.

Kids are spending more time at home than ever as we follow social distancing guidelines to minimize the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). With so many kids learning and playing at home, it’s important to brush up on safety tips. Read on for injury prevention information from our experts.

child with baby gate

Many of us are trying to work from home during a worldwide crisis as we add full-time educator, chef, housekeeper and activities coordinator to our resumes. Even if you’re not working from home, you’re still tasked with managing a household, or coordinating child care, during a pandemic.

“As a parent, I know that we are always doing the best we can when it comes to our kids,” says Dr. Maneesha Agarwal, pediatric emergency medicine physician at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “What we’re facing now is uniquely difficult, so be kind to yourself as you adjust.”

Dr. Agarwal’s top tip? Remembering basic home safety measures could prevent an unnecessary trip to the urgent care clinic or emergency department.

  • Brush up on essential home safety tips. Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries treated in emergency departments, so make sure you use gates around stairs and keep young children strapped in highchairs and swings. And anchor all furniture and TVs to prevent tip-over injuries.
  • Keep dangerous items out of reach for curious hands. Make sure any medications are properly stored: up, away and out of sight. Remember that containers are child-resistant, not childproof. Similarly, store firearms unloaded, locked up and separate from ammunition. And be mindful of small toys or items your child could swallow, like button batteries.
  • Store chemicals properly, and store this number in your phone. Save the poison control number (1-800-222-1222) in your phone so it’s readily available in case of an emergency. And keep batteries, cleaning supplies, laundry pods, motor oil and other chemicals out of kids’ reach.

dad grilling outside with daughters

These tips always apply to keeping your home safe, but it’s never a bad time for a refresher.

Spring weather is beautiful, and temperatures continue to rise, so it’s the perfect time to enjoy meals outside with the family. While we encourage getting fresh air and letting kids in on the fun of prepping meals, keep a few quick tips in mind.

  • Keep grilling activities outside. Keep your grill away from your home and garage, and never grill inside.
  • Watch curious little hands around hot surfaces. Use back burners on the stove, and make sure pot and pan handles are facing toward the back so they’re harder for little hands to reach. And always watch children around the stove, oven and grill. Older kids and teens may be flexing their independence muscles by prepping entire meals, but remind them to be careful with hot items from the microwave or stove.
  • Blow out any candles, and ensure the stove and oven are off before bed. Just as you may double-check that doors are locked, make sure everything is off before turning in.
  • Make sure detectors are armed. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries every 6 months to ensure they’re up to date.

parent putting helmet on child

Riding bikes is a great way for the whole family to stay active while practicing social distancing. And whether they’re riding a bike, taking a scooter for a spin, skating down the driveway or taking a cruise on a hoverboard, make sure children are protected on wheels by practicing proper helmet safety.

It’s Georgia law that all children under 16 years of age wear a properly fitting helmet any time they ride.

  • The front edge should be two finger widths above the eyebrows.
  • The helmet should be snug and not slide around once it’s put in place.
  • The front and back straps should form a V just below your child’s ears.
  • The front straps should be vertical and slightly in front of the ears. The rear straps should be more horizontal and behind the ears.
  • The chin strap should be snug when your child opens their mouth. When your child’s mouth is closed, only one finger should be able to fit between the chin and the strap.

mom and daughter taking a walk on sidewalk

Not only is moving your body good for your physical health, but it also releases brain chemicals that can boost your mood and overall behavioral health. We highly recommend going outside for family walks, but be sure to practice pedestrian safety (along with social distancing) while you’re out and about.

  • Stay alert. Try to keep walks device-free, and pay attention to your surroundings. Not only should you be cautious of vehicles, but you also have to look out for other walkers, runners and bikers while you’re out now. If older kids and teens are going out alone, remind them to pay attention and use their phones for emergencies only.
  • Use sidewalks and crosswalks. Even though traffic may be sparse, it’s always safer to use marked crosswalks and stay on sidewalks when you’re out walking.
  • Avoid wearing dark clothing at night. If you’re going for a walk near or after sundown, wear light or bright clothing so you’re easily seen by drivers. If you have reflective clothing or accessories, that’s even better.
  • Keep your distance. You can go on a family walk, but you should stay at least 6 feet away from anyone outside your household. While your neighbors may allow children to play as usual, kids shouldn’t share sports equipment, use playgrounds or be within 6 feet of one another.

child hugging dog

While the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing have left many of us in crisis mode, our good boys and girls may be happy about all our extra time at home. Whether your pup is sitting in your lap while you tackle your task list or is doing some social distancing of its own, remember to teach kids to respect pets’ space.

Many dogs are super tolerant of our kids’ hugging and tugging, but even so, it’s important that children learn that pets deserve their own space. When dogs moan, groan or growl that is their way of saying, “I have had enough and I would like to be left alone.”

If your child has an injury or is showing signs of illness, call your doctor or visit an urgent care center. If your child has a life-threatening injury or illness, is having trouble breathing or is unconscious, call 911 and/or visit an emergency department immediately.