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Top summer reasons children use the Emergency Department: Emergency Department medical director available for interviews 

Our first post-vaccine summer has arrived, bringing travel and group activities roaring back to life. With this excitement – your local Emergency Department is likely preparing for “trauma season,” a spike in children's unintended injuries.

Bonnie Mackenzie, MD, medical director, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital (L+M), Pediatric Emergency Department, discusses the top reasons children are brought to the Emergency Department to give caregivers actionable insight into keeping safe this summer. 

“There is seasonality to the types of visits we see,” said Dr. Mackenzie. “Summer typically brings more trauma and injury related visits versus other seasons because people are participating in a much different set of activities.” 

All-terrain-vehicles (ATVs): Off-roading vehicles are popular with teens, who tend to have a low ability to estimate risk. “ATVs should only be driven by people with a driver’s license,” said Dr. Mackenzie.

Bikes: “Biking is a great, healthy activity,” said Dr. Mackenzie. “Having a properly fitted helmet and appropriately sized bike can reduce risks of head and other injuries. Additionally, children need to be developmentally ready before they forgo training wheels.”

Insect bites: Skin infections or viral/bacterial infections from bug bites can land children in the ED. “Repellent with DEET is recommended after 2 months of age and tick checks are also important in stopping the transmission of Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses,” said Dr. Mackenzie.

Lawn mowers: “Unfortunately every summer, a child is seriously injured by a mower,” said Dr. Mackenzie. Children should be over 16 before they use a ride-on mower and over 12 for a push mower. Smaller children should not be in the area of a mower and all mowers need a release brake, so the blades can be stopped immediately if a child is getting close.

Pools: “Pools are a summer staple, but they can be dangerous without supervision, especially since the majority of drownings (fatal and non-fatal) happen when lots of adults are around,” said Dr. Mackenzie. “There needs to be clear communication in terms of who is supervising. Access points to the pool should be limited and locks should be checked regularly.”

Sparklers/fireworks: “By all means get out and enjoy a fireworks show, however the Academy of Pediatrics recommends against at home fireworks and sparkler use,” said Dr. Mackenzie. “Many people don’t realize sparklers can reach 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Sunburns: “It sounds basic, but we see severe sunburns in the ED every summer and those burns are significant and can lead to dehydration because skin is your largest organ,” said Dr. Mackenzie. Not only is it important to apply sunscreen before going out, but remember to reapply during the day. 

Trampolines: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against trampolines for home use as they are a major source of injuries in small children. Dr. Mackenzie shared that 70 percent of trampoline injuries occur when more than one child is jumping at the same time. 

Violence: Violence-related trauma spikes in the summer. The main causes of childhood fatality are accidental and non-accidental gun violence. “Thankfully we don’t see it too much in New London, but we will continue to emphasize the importance of gun safety. Gun owners must have trigger locks and keep ammunition stored and locked in a separate location from their gun. This can go a long way in saving children’s lives.”

When it comes to an uptick in violence during the summer, Dr. Mackenzie emphasized that when kids are out school that is one less safety net in place for them.

If you have concerns that a child is being exposed to any type of violence, you can contact your local pediatrician or state Department of Children and Families 800-842-2288 to help get those children supportive services.

If you do need emergency care, please know:

“At L+M, we do our best to ensure immediate comfort needs are addressed, including a toy cart with stickers and books to keep children occupied in case of a wait,” said Dr. Mackenzie. 

Dr. Mackenzie mentioned that for caregivers who have time to pack, bringing ID and insurance if you have it can be helpful. Also, a phone charger and anything that helps keep your child occupied and calm.

“Socializing in groups while supervising children may be a muscle parents haven’t exercised in months, so being extra mindful this summer can help keep children safe. However, sometimes accidents will happen regardless of how vigilant a parent is and we are always here to take care of children and support families,” said Dr. Mackenzie.