Thursday, May 28, 2009

One moment the child is there and the next, sadness fills the world. Words cannot express the grief in Mike Tyson’s family as they deal with the accidental death of their 4 year old daughter from strangulation on a piece of home exercise equipment. That grief is felt by thousands of families every year as kids die unexpectantly from accidental deaths.

According to the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention, accidents are the number one killer of children. In the first year of life, suffocation is the most common cause of accidental death. As kids age, transportation related accidents take over the top spot followed by drowning. Home is where children are supposed to be safe, cocooned from the dangers of the world, yet poisoning and trauma can reach inside that safe area cause harm.

Kids grow quickly and what was safe for a six month old becomes a challenge and enticement for a toddler learning to walk. What was well above their reach at age one becomes a challenge to reach as they how learn to climb. Cupboards and shelves under sinks often become storage depots for toxic cleaning chemicals while televisions sitting on dresser stands can become crushing machines if they fall onto a small child.

No amount of planning can protect and prevent every injury, but that panning should occur each time a child reaches a milestone like walking, climbing or riding a bike. US Safe Kids ( has a top ten safety tip list that is heavy on common sense but reminds that preparing a safe home is a dynamic event. Seatbelts, helmets and water supervision lead a list that includes poison proofing homes and making play areas safe.

The fight to prevent accidental death is a winnable battle. In the last twenty years, the death rates have fallen by 45% but there is plenty of work to be done in prevention. Each year in the US, more than 6 million emergency department visits are due to accidental injuries in children and more than 6,000 kids die. Large numbers are hard to imagine and sometimes it takes the face of a grief stricken celebrity to make those numbers personal.

A world champion boxer like Mike Tyson could not escape fate. Kids can’t be wrapped in a bubble and protected from potential dangers lurking around, but perhaps every evening when we go to sleep, we can be thankful that we did the best that we could to minimize those risks.

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