November 21, 2001
Methodist Rehabilitation Center reminds families to 'think first' about safety this Christmas
By Jim Albritton
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—The holiday season is an exciting time for children, but Methodist Rehabilitation Center urges parents to use a bit of caution this Christmas.
Dr. Rahul Vohra, Methodist Rehab’s medical director, encourages families to buy safe, age appropriate toys and to always remember to buy protective gear for all children who receive scooters, bicycles, skateboards and roller blades as gifts.
“Last year more than 26,000 children who weren’t wearing helmets or knee and elbow pads were treated in emergency rooms because of scooter-related injuries during the holiday season,” said Dr. Vohra, a board-certified physiatrist (specialist in physical medicine). “Christmas is an exciting time for children, but parents must take precautions to make sure it is also a safe time.”
Dr. Vohra and Lauren Fairburn, director of Think First, Methodist Rehab’s statewide injury prevention program, say there are other safety concerns to consider during the holidays such as purchasing toys suitable to the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the child.
Fairburn recommends always reading labels and being safety conscious.
“Pay attention to age recommendations such as ‘not recommended for children under three’ and use that as a guide.” said Fairburn. Look for stuffed toys and dolls that are flame resistant, washable and hygienic. Toys too advanced for a child may be potentially dangerous. “
Dr. Vohra’s tips for a safe holiday season are to:
- Avoid giving toys with small parts to infants and toddlers that may cause them to choke.
- Include a helmet and other protective gear when giving a gift on wheels. For In-line skates, bikes, scooters, roller skates or skateboards, a helmet is a necessity, not an accessory.
- Give reflective clothing, stickers or bike reflectors.
- Give a horn or bell as a stocking stuffer. A horn or bell is essential for bicyclists to warn motorists and pedestrians of their presence.
- Avoid toys that have sharp edges and avoid electric toys with heating elements for children under eight years old.
- Immediately discard plastic wrappings on toys, which can cause suffocation.
“Each year an estimated 580,000 cyclists are treated in emergency rooms and more than 20,000 others are admitted to hospitals,” said Dr. Vohra. “Wearing bike helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent.”
Methodist Rehab’s Think First program tries to prevent spinal cord, brain and other traumatic injuries by focusing on bicycle, automobile, firearm, boat, swimming and diving safety. Think First speakers volunteer their time to encourage others to wear safety belts when driving, helmets when riding bicycles and motorcycles and to think about what they’re doing before they get into any potentially dangerous situation.
“We work closely with schools and other health care professionals to do all we can to prevent traumatic, often life-changing injuries,” said Fairburn. “Students are very responsive when they meet our speakers and our injury prevention mascot, Sammy Safety. They really seem to understand the message and we hope they learn to think first about safety and injury prevention.”