Falls – a cause for concern

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Head Injury Society of Southland field officer Miranda Kennedy holds a copy of the book she compiled to help children better understand head injuries and an educational doll used to demonstrate how easily infants can sustain brain damage.

MORE Southland children under the age of 15 are being injured by falls and no one seems to know why.

Southland ACC claims statistics between July 2012 and June 2013 showed there were 1470 new claims for fall-related injuries for children under 15 and 1789 active claims.

From July 2016 to June 2017, there were 2094 new claims and 2513 active claims.

This was an increase of about 40% for existing and new claims within the space of three years.

A report by Statistics New Zealand released this month revealed serious injuries to children from falls were increasing nationwide.

Serious injuries were defined as fatalities and near-fatal injuries.

“Unfortunately we don’t have anything on why… [but] the increase in the rate has nothing to do with the increase in the population,” a Statistics New Zealand data analyst said.

In 2004, falls and motor vehicle crashes each accounted for about 20% of serious injuries to children, but by 2014 falls accounted for 29% and motor vehicle crashes for 16%, he said.

Head Injury Society of Southland field officer Miranda Kennedy said pre-schoolers were the second-most vulnerable age-group [after the elderly] to suffer serious injury from falls because they were so curious and they had poor balance.

A spokesman for the St John Ambulance “St John in Schools” programme, which educates school-aged children on how to be safe and recognise dangers, said children aged from birth to 4 were most at risk of falls while playing at home, while children aged from 10-14 were most at risk of falls at schools or public playgrounds.

Serious injuries from falls could occur from slipping, tripping or stumbling, or while using scooters or skateboards, or from colliding with another person, he said.

Good practices to prevent serious injury to children from falls included installing stair gates; sand, woodchips or other impact-absorbing safety surfacing; and safety mechanisms in windows, he said.

Adults could also lessen the risk of serious injury to children by ensuring soft surfacing materials used in public playgrounds were to a safe depth, playground equipment was well maintained and by enforcing the helmet rule when children rode bikes, he said.

Southern District Health Board acting clinical leader of the Southland Hospital Emergency Department Dr Neil Waldman said if a child fell, their injuries needed to be assessed and appropriately treated.

“Minor bumps, bruises and scrapes can be managed at home, but for serious injuries or if any loss of consciousness occurs, children must be treated by a doctor.

“If a child has fallen and they have hit their head but otherwise appear well they should be monitored for 24 hours for signs of a possible head injury.

“Signs of a head injury can include confusion, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, dizziness, difficulty sleeping and persistent headache.”

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