Holidays Can Hurt Kids

Sports, Recreation Often Behind Children's Injuries During Holidays

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

April 5, 2010 -- Holidays can pose a safety risk to young people, but most injuries aren't related to the festivities. Sports and recreational activities, home structures, and furnishings are the most common culprits, researchers say.

The finding comes from a study of holiday-related injuries to 5.7 million youths aged 19 and younger who were treated in emergency rooms between 1997 and 2006.

The most dangerous holiday in terms of injuries is the five-day period surrounding Labor Day, followed by Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Halloween.

Not surprisingly, injuries from fireworks were more likely to occur on the Fourth of July than on other holidays, although fireworks accounted for just 2.9% of July 4 emergency room visits.

The authors say public health officials and the media traditionally stress prevention that is holiday specific but that parents should be on guard for routine causes, too.

Fewest Injuires at Christmas

Other study findings:

  • Children under 5 had more injuries than other age groups.
  • The face, finger, hand, and head were the most commonly injured body parts.
  • The most commonly diagnosed injuries were cuts, bruises, abrasions, fractures, sprains, and strains.
  • The majority of holiday injuries were linked to sports and recreation.
  • Injuries related to home structures and furnishings were prevalent.

Many studies have focused on holiday-specific injuries, such as cuts while children are carving Halloween pumpkins or fireworks burns on July 4. This study, however, was the first to compare injuries suffered on a five day period associated with each of eight common holidays -- New Year's, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

“Parents should be aware that holidays present a risk not only for holiday-specific injuries but also for more general, 'everyday' injuries,” the authors write.

Other interesting findings:

  • Holiday injuries to youths 19 and under decreased from 1997 to 2006.
  • Christmas was the holiday with the fewest injuries.
  • Fourth of July injuries decreased significantly in the period studied.
  • Boys accounted for 62.4% of injuries.
  • 29.2% of injuries involved cuts, 18.3% bruises/abrasions, 15.1% fractures, and 13% sprains/strains.
  • 65.9% of injuries to the face involved cuts.
  • For head injuries, 33.1% involved cuts, 32.3% internal, 17.6% bruises/abrasions, and 10.3% concussions.
  • Children younger than 5 sustained a greater proportion of head injuries (21.9%) than children 5 and over (9.7%).
  • The most commonly injured body part among kids 10-14 and 15-19 was the finger or hand.
  • In 96.8% of holiday injuries during the period studied, patients were treated and released from emergency departments and only 1.7% required hospitalization.
  • An estimated 0.03% of injuries during holiday periods resulted in deaths. The most common causes of death were submersion/drowning and cardiac/respiratory arrest. Twenty-nine of 60 deaths occurred among children under 5. The greatest number of deaths, 13, occurred on the Fourth of July, followed by 9 on the New Year's holiday period.

The researchers conclude that “holiday injury prevention efforts that focus on general risk factors in addition to holiday-specific risks could be expected to have a greater impact on decreasing pediatric injury rates in the United States.”

Future injury prevention efforts should target Labor Day and Memorial Day, the researchers say, because those have the highest rates of injury of all holidays.

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SOURCES: News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.

D'Ippolito, A. Pediatrics, May 2010; vol 125, no 5.

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