According to the latest National Injury Mortality Surveillance System (NIMSS) compiled by the Medical Research Council, burns were the main cause of death in infants and children younger than five years during 1999.
Very young children have especially sensitive skin and even a burn from a cup of coffee can prove fatal. The most common types of burns are due to hot liquids or fluids such as boiling water, tea or coffee. The second leading cause of death for this age group was motor vehicle accidents.
From the ages five to 14 years, pedestrian injuries and drowning ranked first and second. Firearms and sharp injuries were the first and second leading external causes of injury deaths in people between 15 and 44 years.
Most injuries and deaths can be prevented. Motor vehicle accidents, with children either being run over or involved as passengers is one example. Perhaps one of the most staggering facts is that most serious injuries occur in vehicles travelling below 80 km/hour. “Children under the age of nine are generally not physically or emotionally developed to cross roads on their own,” said assistant director of the Child Accident Prevnetion Foundation, Nelmarie du Toit. “They should always be accompanied by a parent or guardian and should be made as visible as possible.”
Injuries destroy the health, lives and independence of hundreds of thousands of children, yet they receive scant attention. At the Red Cross Children’s Hospital alone, more than 10 000 children were treated in one year for various injuries, including poisoning and drowning.
Trauma kills more children over four years of age than all diseases combined. From an economic perspective, injury presently imposes a financial burden on the health system that is far greater than that arising from many other diseases.
National child accident prevention week
National Child Accident Prevention Week which runs from 12 to 17 August, is an annual initiative of The Child Accident Prevention Foundation (CAPFSA). The aim is to increase awareness and understanding of children’s accidents. This health week is set aside to remind people that childhood injuries are preventable and that keeping children safe is not just about “good luck”.