Childhood Injury – Still the leading cause of Mortality!

    We are all keenly aware that accidental injuries are the most significant cause of childhood mortality.  It is this fact that keeps us all busy in our clinical settings… and is also what frightens us parents of children the most.  {Seriously, how many times do I have to tell my neighbors that Trampolines are not safe?!}  The CDC just published the newest edition of their “Vital Signs,” looking at data from 2009.  Below are some of the highlights (for those international PedEM Morsel readers, these statistics are not specifically representative of your area, but the ideas are likely similar).

Unintentional Injury

  • Over the past decade, the injury death rate for children in the US decreased ~30% (in 2000, the #of Deaths = 12,441!); however, more than 9,000 children died from accidental injuries in 2009… still the #1 cause of Mortality for children.
    • 9,000 deaths > 8,760 hours/yr; therefore, every hour, ~one child DIES from an injury!
    • Every 4 seconds, a child is treated in an Emergency Department for an injury!
    • The US child injury death rate is among the worst of all high-income countries.
  • Every time you see a patient who has had any type of injury (minor or severe), take the opportunity to reinforce the fact that Accidental Injuries are often avoidable… and point out the following:


Top 6 causes of injury in children:

  • Motor Vehicle
    • 4,564 deaths (down 41%)
    • Always use appropriate restraint devices for the patient’s size and age.
    • Focus on teens and distracted driving as well.
  • Suffocation
    • 1,160 deaths (INCREASED 30%)
    • Infants should be placed “Back to Sleep” on a firm surface without loose bedding.
    • Ensure the child is in a crib that meets current safety standards.
    • Co-sleeping is not favored.
  • Drowning
    • 983 deaths (down 28%) – had been second leading cause of death
    • CLOSE SUPERVISION is necessary when the child is in or around water.
    • Four-sided high fencing around pool with self-closing gates is recommended.
    • By the way, knowing how to swim does not make one drown-proof.
  • Poisoning
    • 824 deaths (INCREASED 80%)
    • Significant increase in prescription drug abuse in teenagers is contributing force.
    • Poisoning death rates increased 91% among 15-19 year-olds.
    • Dispose of unused medicines.
    • Keep medicines, cleaning solutions, etc in their original packaging and safely away from children.
  • Fire/Burn
    • 391 deaths (down 45%)
    • Encourage the development of family fire escape plans.
    • Ensure that smoke alarms are where people sleep and on every level of the house.
    • Test smoke alarms monthly.
  • Falls
    • 151 deaths (down 19%)
    • Install protective rails on loft/bunk beds.
    • Use protective headgear for sports and recreation.
    • Ensure the surface of the playground is soft (not dirt or grass).

By the way… for every 1 of the deaths mentioned above, there are 25 kids hospitalized, 925 kids treated in the Emergency Department, and countless kids seen in their Pediatrician’s office.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital Signs: Unintential Injury Deaths Among Persons 0-19 Years – United States, 2000 – 2009. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Early Release / Vol. 61. April 16th, 2012.

Sean M. Fox
Sean M. Fox

I enjoy taking care of patients and I finding it endlessly rewarding to help train others to do the same. I trained at the Combined Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics residency program at University of Maryland, where I had the tremendous fortune of learning from world renowned educators and clinicians. Now I have the unbelievable honor of working with an unbelievably gifted group of practitioners at Carolinas Medical Center. I strive every day to inspire my residents as much as they inspire me.

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  1. […] but sometimes that environment (and their lack of agility and sluggish reflexes) leads to injuries. Fortunately, often these injuries are minor. Unfortunately, those minor injuries can lead to major […]

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