How children get hurt: study rings alarm for parents

A new study has revealed how children get hurt.
A new study has revealed how children get hurt.

THE main reasons babies and toddlers are being injured and hospitalised in NSW have been identified for the first time by Sydney researchers, who say their findings have important implications for the development of injury prevention campaigns aimed at parents.

Children aged 0-4 were often analysed together in injury statistics, said the lead author of the study, Marcia Schmertmann. But this was misleading because it masked important differences in injury risk that were only seen when looking at statistics by individual year group.

''As a whole, falls from playground equipment appears to be the main cause of injury hospitalisation for children four and under,'' said Ms Schmertmann, who led the study through the Injury Risk Management Research Centre at the University of NSW.

''But falls while being carried are actually the leading cause of hospitalisation injury for children younger than one, and poisoning for two-year-olds, while falls from playground equipment are not even in the top five for those age groups.''

Her research, published in this month's Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, looked at hospitalisations over the decade until 2009 using data from NSW Health and the Bureau of Statistics.

Ms Schmertmann said the research showed parents needed to be implementing injury prevention strategies well ahead of each stage of their child's development.

But the head of Sydney Children Hospital's trauma service, Donovan Dwyer, said it was very difficult for parents to find prevention information despite a significant amount of research being carried out in that area.

''In my position I have strong insight into injury and trauma and I still find these resources are not as out there as you'd expect,'' Dr Dwyer said.

''Countless times I've heard parents say, 'I just turned away for one second', and those distraught parents sometimes blame themselves or there is inter-marital blame; it is very stressful for them.

''All these prevention committees, councils and bodies need to come together to share information and make it more accessible to parents.''

Many infant falls resulted from older but immature siblings attempting to carry them, he said, or from parents lifting their wet child from a bath and over a tiled floor, which he described as a ''recipe for disaster''.

For burn injuries, the head of the Burns Unit at the Children's Hospital at Westmead, John Harvey, said the bathroom and kitchen were the most common sources.

Children were getting into, or running their hands under, hot bath water, being scalded by their parent's coffee or tea, or pulling down kettles or hot saucepans, he said.

''Nearly 60 per cent of burns in those under five are caused by scalds and we haven't seen that rate change over the past 10 years,'' Dr Dwyer said.

''It's very concerning and education campaigns are really needed.''

About 650 children under five were admitted to the statewide emergency service with burns each year, he said, with contact burns from touching heaters, stoves, irons, oven doors and running treadmills becoming more common.

This story How children get hurt: study rings alarm for parents first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.