How to Protect Your Kid from Top Health Threats

Three ways to keep your children injury-free.

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The number one cause of death in children up to age 19—unintentional injury—is totally preventable. By taking just a few precautions, you can keep your kids healthy. We collected info on the most common hazards, plus tips on protecting your kids from them, from Kate Carr, mom of three and president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization created to help spread awareness about these life-threatening risks. “We’re here to teach parents about the little things they can do so their kids grow up safe and strong,” says Carr. Here’s how to make that goal come true.

Health hazard #1: Car crashesStay-safe strategy: Set a good example and buckle up.
More than 2,500 teens die in car accidents every year, and over half of them weren’t wearing seat belts. “I’m not saying it’s always going to save every life, but wearing a seat belt definitely increases chances of survival,” Carr explains. “Kids emulate parents, and there’s a specific link between mom or dad not buckling up and their kids not doing so either.” So model the proper behavior and strap yourself in for every ride—and avoid texting or talking on the phone. Also effective is setting limits on teen driving, like restricting the number of people in a car or the hours when your kids can be out cruising.

Health hazard #2: Prescription drug overdosesStay-safe strategy: Hide medications and follow the labels.
“No matter what your child's age, it’s a good habit to keep common drugs up and away,” explains Carr. “Lots of younger kids get into pills that fall on the floor or even from a visitor’s purse.” As your son or daughter gets older, it’s crucial to follow the directions on the bottle. “What’s on the label is not a suggestion, it’s a rule,” Carr says. Remind teens to take only their own medicine (not a friend’s), not to mix different drugs and to avoid double dosing. Most important, write down this number: 1-800-222-1222. That will reach the Poison Control Center, where experts can answer questions you may have about missing meds or accidentally taking too many and offer any other advice you need on toxicology. They often call back to follow up and make sure you’re okay too.

Health hazard #3: DrowningStay-safe strategy: Designate a lifeguard.
All it takes is an inch of H2O for a drowning to occur, whether in a bathtub, bucket or pool. It’s best for kids to learn how to swim by the time they’re 8 years old—that way they’ll learn the skills more quickly and be prepared for future water adventures. Always keep an eye on little kids in tubs, and put up a gate to keep them away from pools. At get-togethers, Carr recommends designating a “water watcher” who isn’t distracted by socializing, TV or games. As for older children, tell them to know their circumstances before jumping in and to always swim with a buddy.

Kate Carr is president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, which since its start has helped reduce the U.S. childhood death rate from unintentional injury by 60%. She’s also involved with Safe Kids Day presented by Nationwide, an event that was held on April 26 this year, when hospitals, fire stations and police departments around the country showed teens and adults the best practices for activities like driving, cooking and sports safety (to name a few). Prior to Safe Kids, Carr served as managing director of Malaria No More and president and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. She also served as special assistant to the president, Office of Public Liaison, at the White House.