Injuries to children show definite patterns

03/30/04

Injuries to children are often preventable and always unfortunate. But parents taking their child to a doctor for treatment of an injury--everything from cuts to broken bones to a peanut stuck in the nose--can take solace knowing that injuries to children--especially boys--are a fact of growing up.

A new study out of the University of Alberta shows that 84 per cent of children will sustain an injury before the age of 10 that requires professional medical attention, and 73 per cent will sustain at least two or more such injuries. The study also shows that in any given year there is a 21 per cent chance that a child under 10 will visit a doctor due to an injury. The results come from a database of more than 96,000 children--about 80 per cent of all children born in Alberta between 1985 and 1988.

"That 84 per cent of all children will see a doctor for an injury before the age of 10 struck me as quite high," said Dr. Donald Spady, a professor of pediatrics at the U of A and lead author of the study. "But the numbers are similar to the estimates made by other researchers, and they fit into a pattern, so we have a good deal of confidence in them." Spady believes this study is the largest and most comprehensive of its kind that has ever been done. Results from it are published this month in the journal Pediatrics.

The study revealed consistent patterns in the types of injuries sustained, and who sustains them. For example, boys are 10 per cent more likely than girls to see a doctor for an injury before the age of 10. It also shows that children are most susceptible to suffering certain injuries at different stages of growing up. For example, the risk of suffering a burn or poisoning between the ages of one and three is high, after which these risks decrease substantially.

"We see that burns peak at age one, which is an age when children start standing, exploring, and grabbing things. At this age they can begin to pull things down, such as hot water, onto themselves, so this statistic seems to make sense," Spady said.

Although the study does not consider the cause of the injuries, Spady believes the results are valuable for a number of reasons.

"It can help doctors and hospital officials in their planning and preparation," Spady said. "It can also help educate parents so they can prevent these injuries. And the information itself can be of benefit to other researchers to help them better understand the mental and physical development patterns in children."

The study also showed that First Nations children under 10 are 71 per cent more likely than non-First Nations children to suffer four or more injuries that require medical attention. And children under 10 from families on welfare are 59 per cent more likely than their non-welfare counterparts to sustain four of more injuries that require medical attention.

"There is abundant evidence that shows children from low socio-economic backgrounds suffer more health problems than children with more advantages, and, with regard to injuries, this study clearly confirms that evidence," Spady said.

Spady said a study of injuries in children beyond the age of 10 is underway at the U of A and has already proved revealing.

"We're finding that after the age of 11 the incidence of fractures among boys begins to jump--but that's another study," he added.

Other statistics from Spady's current study include:

  • Thirty-two of the 96,359 children in the study died as a result of an injury between the ages of five and nine, which is about 41 per cent of all children in the study who died between these ages.
  • Ten per cent of injuries required hospitalization.
  • Hospitalization and emergency room visits are more common in early years.
  • Injuries are a leading cause of hospitalization, days away from school, and permanent disability among children under 10 years of age.
  • The most common ages for injury are one to two, with a gradual drop in the preschool years and then a steady rise again with age.
  • Injuries such as dislocations, sprains, and fractures increase with age.
  • Children with a first injury before age two were four times more likely to have repeat injuries than children whose first injury occurred after two.
  • About 18 per cent of all children between 0 and nine years of age suffer fractures before they reach the age of 10.
  • The risk of sprain incidences increases dramatically for eight and nine year-olds.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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