May is Trauma Awareness Month and, in recognition, the American Trauma Society is celebrating 50 years of trauma awareness and injury prevention initiatives this year. Trauma is a leading cause of death and disability in all age groups and the cost of trauma care can be staggering. Many traumas can be avoided by taking some precautions.
Falls are one of the leading causes for admissions into a trauma center and are the leading cause of trauma deaths and injuries for almost all age groups. More than $34 billion are spent every year in the United States to provide care for those who have been injured in a fall. In those over 65, one out of three will suffer a fall every year. Falls can happen during recreational activities, sporting events, work-related activities, in the home, or as a normal part of aging. Here are some tips to help reduce the risk of falls:
- Keep hallways and staircases free of clutter and make sure all handrails are secure.
- Use caution in using ladders and never use a chair, table, or other unstable object to stand on to reach high shelves or perform household maintenance.
- Consider installing safety rails in the bathroom, particularly in households with seniors.
- Be sure to wear a helmet at all times while using a scooter, bike, skateboard, or rollerblades.
- Be aware of potential side effects of some medications that may cause drowsiness and lead to falls or accidents.
One of the other leading causes of traumatic injury are motor vehicle crashes. When riding in a motor vehicle, make sure the driver and all passengers always were a seatbelt, even for short trips. For children in the car make sure they are properly restrained. Even minor accidents can result in serious injury or death. In 2015, New Jersey instituted a new child seat safety law which includes these requirements:
- Birth to age 2:A child under age 2 and under 30 lbs. must be in a rear-facing car seat with a five-point harness in the back seat of a vehicle.
- Ages 2 to 4:A child under age 4 and 40 lbs. must be in either a rear-facing or a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness in the back seat of a vehicle.
- Ages 4 to 8:Children must remain in a car seat or a booster seat in the back seat of a vehicle until they are at least 8 years old or 57 inches tall. Once they reach that age or height, they can use the regular adult seat belts.
- Age 8 and above:A child age 8 and older can sit in a regular seat using a seat belt. However, the New Jersey law does not specify when children over age 8 can move from the back seat to the front seat. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children not sit in the front seat until age 13.
Pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents are also a leading cause of traumatic injuries. To avoid becoming a victim, always follow posted safety signs. Only cross the street at designated corners and in accordance with the lights. Even if you have the “walk light,” check both ways before stepping off the curb to ensure that traffic has stopped. Always walk on the sidewalk and never in the street. When walking or jogging at night or in the early morning hours, consider wearing reflective clothing or use reflective tape on your clothes and shoes so that you can be seen by motorists.
Following these tips can significantly reduce your risk of ending up in an emergency room or trauma center.
Dave Groves, RN, MSN, CCRN, is the Trauma Outreach Coordinator at Cooper. For more information about Community Outreach and Injury Prevention Programs at Cooper, click here.