Falls leading cause of presentation to Emergency

8 December 2017

Hundreds of Queensland children will land in a local emergency department after a fall over the Christmas season, prompting a call for parents to brush up on their first aid skills and remain vigilant about supervision.

The Queensland Children’s Hospital emergency department saw more than 14,900 children – or 166 presentations a day – over the previous summer holiday period, with bumps, scrapes and breaks from falls the most common injuries (1,464 total fall presentations).

Director of Emergency Dr Jason Acworth said playground equipment such as monkey bars, slides, swings and trampolines remained the most common cause, followed by bikes, scooters and skateboards.

“Children aged five to eleven are most likely to be injured falling from play equipment, and more than 65 per cent of trampoline injuries occurred in children under nine,” Dr Acworth said.

“Teenagers were most likely to be injured playing sports with 70 per cent of all presentations aged between ten and sixteen. Young people in this age group are also more likely to sustain a fracture to their arms as they use their hands and arms to brace against a fall.”

Last summer, falls from furniture, particularly beds and bunk-beds accounted for almost 16 per cent of all fall-related presentations, of which 73 per cent were in children under the age of four.

“Children under the age of four often fall due to their top-heavy nature and suffer injuries to their face and head. These falls regularly occur at home or away at holiday apartments, and involve falls from less than one metre from beds, chairs or nursery tables,” Dr Acworth said.

“In the warmer months we also see a higher number of outdoor injuries – whether it is children falling while climbing trees or sand dunes, or even while hiking in bushland,” he said.

Dr Acworth said parents should seek medical help immediately if their child appeared stunned, had lost consciousness, seemed unwell or vomited after a hard knock to the head.

“In a distressing situation it’s often difficult for parents to know whether their child requires emergency medical attention. Parents should look out for signs of headaches, dizziness, slurred speech or disorientation, and if in doubt always seek medical attention,” he said.

Dr Acworth said while some bumps and bruises were unavoidable and a natural part of childhood, parents could take steps to ensure they were prepared for emergency situations.

“It’s a good idea for parents to do a first aid course, through St Johns Ambulance, for example, have a first aid kit on hand, and if on holidays, know the location of the closest emergency department,” he said.

Kidsafe Queensland chief executive Susan Teerds said parents could follow a number of simple precautions to keep their children safe whether away or spending time at home.

“Young children cannot identify hazards in their environment, but adults can, so put on your workplace health and safety hat and have a good look in and around your home and in the playground, Ms Teerds said.

“Identify hazards and consider what you can do to remove the danger or minimise the risk of serious injury associated with the hazard. For example, secure a gate at the top and bottom of internal stairs and ensure helmets are worn when skateboarding or cycling.

Precautions should also be taken around bunk beds with more than 4,000 Australian children each year requiring medical care after falling from a bunk bed.

“It is important that children under the age of 12 not be allowed on the top bunk and that the beds are not used as a play area.

“If you are away in holiday accommodation you should check the safety of bunk beds and ladders as well as the security of flyscreens and balustrading in this new environment,” she said.

While these safety precautions greatly reduce the risk of injuries, Ms Teerds said parental supervision was still the best way to prevent fall-related injuries.

“Young children should be closely watched and supervised by an adult at all times around fall hazards, such as stairs and playground equipment, whether at home or out to play,” she said.

For more information on falls prevention and other home safety tips, see www.kidsafeqld.com.au


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