Posts Tagged ‘Consumer Product Safety Commission’

Indoor Playgrounds: 6 Things Parents Should Know

Saturday, November 14th, 2009
A toddler in a ball pit

Is it getting cold where you live? If so, the kids are probably starting to climb the walls — and you’re probably ready to climb a few yourself. (Don’t worry. We’ve all been there.)

Indoor playgrounds are a great place to let kids burn off steam. Just watch for these common health-and-safety hazards, suggests the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) — and this mom who’s done her time in the ball pits:

1.    Big kid-little kid collisions. Don’t place your toddler in the rowdy big-kid section. (I once had to yank my then-preschooler out of the way as a big kid came careening down a slide into the ball pit.) Older kids love to hurl the balls at each other. Kids bury themselves in balls and can be hurt when another child leaps into the pit. Happily, most play centers have separate toddler/preschooler sections designed just for the younger set. Bringing younger children in the morning, before the rough-and-tumble crowd gets out of school, is helpful, too.

2.    Icky ball pits. Just say no. They’re dangerous — and often just plain nasty. I’ve seen toddlers wading through ball pits with their diapers falling off. And the balls and pits often aren’t cleaned regularly. (The CPSC recommends a weekly cleaning of each ball — by hand — and a thorough sanitizing of the pit itself. But how often does that actually happen?) If the ball pit is located at a fast-food restaurant, take a good look at the restaurant itself. Does it seem to be clean and well-managed? If the restaurant floor is rarely mopped and old mustard spills are dried on the condiment bar, you can probably imagine how often the ball pit is cleaned and inspected.

3.    Lack of supervision. Forget bringing a book and relaxing with a latte from the snack bar. (Sorry!) Indoor playgrounds require big-time vigilance. Is your child strong enough to pull himself up the rope ladder? Does he freak out inside the crawl tubes? Is he climbing up slide exits, sitting at the bottom of a slide or throwing (or licking!) ball-pit balls? It’s exhausting, but it’s a good idea to follow your child around.

4.    Unsafe equipment. Check for damaged floor mats and frayed climbing ropes and netting. Make sure crawl tubes have windows or cutouts so you can see inside. And check to be sure tube slides are large enough so that kids can sit to slide down and don’t have to lie down head-first. If a narrow crawl tube empties into a narrow tube slide, your child can only go down head first, as there’s no room to sit up or turn around.

5.    Strangulation hazards. Leave necklaces and other jewelry at home and avoid clothing with loose strings that can catch on equipment.

6.    Getting lost in the crowd. Now’s the time to let your child wear her favorite hot-orange Sponge Bob t-shirt to make it easier to spot her. Avoiding peak weekend (i.e., birthday party) times makes it easier to keep track of your child, too. Many play centers have added side-door alarms, matching child-adult wristbands and other security measures to keep kids from wandering off — or even being abducted. But no snazzy security system beats staying on your feet and keeping your eyeballs peeled. (Just don’t forget to pick up that latte on the way home — you’re earned it!)

How Dangerous is Cheerleading?

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Cheerleaders warming up for competition

As a bright, young cheerleader trying out for the high-school varsity squad in Livonia, Mich., 14-year-old Laura Jackson had everything going for her. But when a back flip went wrong during a try-out without a trained spotter on hand, Laura landed on her head, fracturing her neck and damaging her spinal cord. She is now paralyzed and breathes with the help of a ventilator.

Cheerleading has become the leading cause of catastrophic injury in young female athletes, says Amy Miller Bohn, M.D., a physician at the University of Michigan Health System’s department of family medicine.

Data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that rates of injuries from cheerleading accidents have gone from nearly 5,000 in 1980 to somewhere between 26,000 and 28,000 in the past few years, Miller Bohn says. These injuries account for 65 to 66 percent of all female catastrophic injuries in either high school or college.

Cheerleading injuries appear to be on the rise partly because of an increase in participants, but the sport has also changed significantly in the past 25 years. Cheerleading no longer consists of athletes standing on the sidelines, rooting for a team.

“Cheerleading has become an actual competitive sport,” Miller Bohn says. If participants want to be on one of the better teams, compete at high levels and be invited to competitions, athletes must include a higher degree of difficulty and risk in routines. This means fewer traditional pyramids and more tossing people in the air, jumping off pyramids and trying risky stunts.

Miller Bohn believes there aren’t enough safety measures in place in schools. Many athletes will practice in places such as a back yard, a hard gym floor or a parking lot. There are often no supportive surfaces, such as mats and a spring-loaded floor, to help protect them during falls. Participants also lack adequate supervision.

If a trained coach is not present to ensure participants are using proper techniques and to make sure spotters are placed where they should be, injuries may occur.
The experience of the coaching staff is also important. It’s recommended that a coach have first-aid and CPR training. It’s also preferred that they have training in how to coach athletes regarding development, strength, conditioning and flexibility.

Keep Kids Safe When Using Inflatable Slides, Jumpers

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

A post on the Consumer Reports Safety Blog, "Inflatable Accidents Are Up, Up and Away," caught my eye yesterday, and I wanted to share it with you. 

(Disclosure: I work part-time as the social-media reporter for Consumer Reports at @CReporter on Twitter. Actually, it's a job that comes in very handy for me as a parenting writer, because I learn about these issues from folks who really know how to test equipment and check on safety issues.)

Recently an 11-year-old boy flew 40 feet into the air, clinging to a poorly anchored inflatable slide that was caught by a gust of wind. Fast-thinking parents punctured the slide and brought it back to earth before the boy was injured.

But, as CR notes: "The newest numbers from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which
were last updated in 2005, are sobering. The CPSC reported four
fatalities in inflatable-related accidents from 2002 to 2005. In 2004,
the most recent year for which we found complete data,
inflatable rides, such as inflatable slides and bouncers, accounted for
an estimated 4,900 injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms,
according to the agency. That was up sharply from 1997, when the CPSC
estimated only 1,300 such injuries — a whopping 277 percent increase
in just eight years (a time in which inflatables grew in popularity)."

My son has been bouncing in inflatable jumpers and sliding down inflatable slides since he was a preschooler. When he was little, I made sure he wasn't getting jumped on by the bigger kids, but I didn't realize the dangers in these structures being caught by a burst of wind or suddenly deflating.

Does this mean we need to stop using inflatable slides and jumpers? I don't think so. But should adults supervise their use and be available to prevent kid pile-ups and to make sure the structure is safe? Absolutely.

Enjoy the 4th — But Keep it Safe

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

It’s impossible to picture July 4 in America without fireworks. But they can be dangerous, causing serious burns and eye injuries.

Of course, it’s always best to attend a community celebration where fireworks are handled by the pros. But if fireworks are legal where you live and you decide to set them off on your own, be sure to follow these important safety tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

°    Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.

°    Read and follow all warnings and instructions.

°    Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.

°    Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves and flammable materials.

°    Never try to relight fireworks that have not fully functioned.

°    Keep a bucket of water handy in case of a malfunction or fire.

LeRoi Moore ATV Death Should be a Wake-up Call for Parents

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

LeRoi Moore, saxaphonist for the Dave Matthews Band, died Tuesday due to
complications from an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident he had on his
Virginia farm in late June.  He was 46 years old.

In my kids'-health column, Health Notes, I've been warning parents about the dangers of ATVs for years. More than 500 people reportedly
died in 2006 (the most recent stats available), and at least 100 of those were kids, according to the Consumer
Product Safety
Commission. The CPSC believes at least 146,000 other people were
treated that year for ATV-related injuries.

Three moms, Carolyn Anderson, Sue Rabe and Carol Keezer, lost children in ATV-related accidents and founded Concerned Families for ATV Safety. They claim that more than 40,000 families each year have a
child who is injured or killed in one of these incidents. It's heartbreaking to look at the photos of kids who have died in these accidents.

Check out these ATV safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Children who are not licensed to drive a car should not be allowed to operate off-road vehicles.
  • Because
    their nervous systems and judgment have not fully developed, off-roa
    vehicles are particularly dangerous for children younger than 16 years.
  • Don't ride double. Passengers are frequently injured when riding ATVs.
  • All
    riders should wear helmets, eye protection and protective, reflective
    clothing. A
    ppropriate helmets are those designed for motorcycle (not
    bicycle) use, and should include safety visors/face shields for eye
  • ATVs
    lack the common safety equipment found on all cars and trucks that are
    designed for street use. Parents should never permit nighttime riding
    or street use of off-road vehicles.
  • Flags, reflectors and lights should be used to make vehicles more visible.
  • Drivers
    of recreational vehicles should not drive while under the influence of
    alcohol, drugs or even some prescription medicines. Parents should set
    an example for their children in this regard.
  • Young
    drivers should be discouraged from on-road riding of any 2-wheeled
    motorized cycle, even when they are able to be licensed to do so,
    because they are inherently more dangerous than passenger cars.

Hey Kid, Strap on That Helmet!

Monday, December 17th, 2007

Every time I see a kid riding on a bike or a skateboard either without
a helmet or with a helmet that’s not strapped on, I want to stop him
and say "Are you nuts? Do your parents know you’re doing this?"

many kids seem to think that wearing an unstrapped helmet fulfills the
letter of the law. But it’s buckling that strap that will help keep a 12-year-old’s brain intact if he gets hit by an SUV.

In fact, in our town, a seventh-grade boy is
recovering right now from being hit by an SUV while riding his bike.
His injuries were severe, and he has a long recovery ahead of him, but
the doctors say he would probably have been killed if he hadn’t been
wearing a helmet.

"Each year about 300 children are killed
and more than 400,000 children go to hospital emergency rooms due to
bicycle injuries," says Consumer Product Safety Commission chairperson Ann Brown. "Children between 5 and 14 have the highest injury
rate of all bicycle riders, and bicycle accidents are the leading cause
of death in this age group."

The greatest tragedy is that many of these injuries
could be prevented if riders wore their helmets. "In fact, young
bicyclists can reduce the risk of head injury or death by up to 85
percent if they wear a helmet," she says.

Talk with your kids today about wearing a helmet — and buckling it —
whenever they’re on wheels. The life you save may be your child’s.