Dr. Leopoldo Malvezzi, trauma program director at Miami Children’s Hospital, recalls seeing a young patient who had crafted “wings” out of cardboard and decided to test them out by jumping from the roof of his home.
He was treated for bruises, but a few weeks later, Malvezzi received the same patient again, this time with a broken arm. The boy told him, “I made my wings better.”
Almost 9 million children are treated for their injuries in hospital emergency departments each year, and unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During the summer months, emergency room visits for fractures and other injuries jump as children spend less time at school desks and more time enjoying the freedom of summer.
“During the summer, not only is it hotter, but they are out of school,” Malvezzi said. “When they are doing more, they are more at risk. . . . It’s the busiest time of the year for us.”
The CDC defines injuries as “the physical damage . . . that exceed the threshold of physiologic tolerance — or else the result of a lack of one or more vital elements, such as oxygen.”
For parents, they are accidents that often seem inevitable, but experts say they can be lessened in severity or decreased.
Cindy Magnole, injury prevention coordinator at Jackson Health System and chair of the Miami-Dade County Injury Prevention Coalition, works year round educating families on how to prevent unintentional injuries and accidents.
“Bad things happen to good people, too,” Magnole said. “We want to be vigilant.”
Malvezzi said that with summer in full swing, many visits to the ER result from children overheating and becoming dehydrated.
“Children never have time to drink water,” he said. So it’s up to parents and caretakers to make sure they stop to replenish.
In the summer, Magnole said parents should be especially watchful of accidents in the water. She said it goes beyond the pool — canals, man-made lakes and beaches can all result in water-related injuries, such as near-drownings.
Whether learning to ride their bikes in the summertime or pedaling to school once it starts, Malvezzi said many injuries are also the result of kids falling or crashing their bikes.
He said he treated two young patients who collided with a vehicle and were thrown off their bikes. Both were treated for fractures, but one who was not wearing a helmet suffered a brain injury.
“Most adults today didn't grow up wearing bicycle helmets. But it is key to preventing brain damage,” Malvezzi said.
When a child does get injured, the experts recommend paying a visit to the ER if anything is out of the ordinary.
“If there is an obvious deformity . . . or if there is bleeding that won’t stop,” Magnole said. “If there is ever a chance there was some injury where they hit their head, seek care.”
She says that while it is impossible for parents to prevent every injury, it’s important to work to decrease the number and severity.
“You can’t prevent all injuries,” Magnole said. “Set the standard and model the behavior that you want your child to follow.”