Every year, over a million people in the United States suffer a fatal or debilitating brain or spinal cord injury, including children and teenagers. The ThinkFirst Helen Hayes Hospital Chapter seeks to help our youth by providing hundreds of local students with free injury prevention programming throughout the school year. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our participation in this last school year was dramatically impacted. While we hope to return in the fall pending guidelines at that time, we want to convey the need for safety now in the summer months.
ThinkFirst Helen Hayes Hospital Chapter Director and Program Director of the SCI/Stroke Services at Helen Hayes Hospital, John Ficucello, PT, advises that the recent COVID-19 pandemic requires more vigilance from parents so kids may enjoy their summers safely. The CDC.gov and NY.gov sites are very useful resources. In addition, speaking with your pediatrician may be helpful to address specific questions about your child’s health, especially as group activities or sports resume. Common current recommendations include wearing a face mask in public spaces when social distancing cannot be maintained, practicing hand hygiene often and before meals, and coughing/sneezing into one’s elbow rather than hands.
Regarding summer-related activities, there are a number of safety precautions one should take to prevent injuries in the warmer months. Young people should take a moment to ensure safety, including knowing the water depth before diving or jumping in, always kayaking with a buddy, wearing a helmet when biking, and driving safely and attentively.
Ficucello adds that parents should discuss playground and sports safety with their children to help them understand the body’s limited ability to prevent injury. This is especially true for recognizing the brain’s vulnerability and risk of concussions with certain activities. Parents of young, new drivers must educate them on the major risks associated with drinking, texting, and traveling with multiple passengers. Data has historically shown an increase in accidents among young drivers in the summer months compared to the remainder of the year.
ThinkFirst HHH encourages young people to heed these safety tips and use their minds to protect their bodies all year long. As we continue to navigate through the pandemic, returning to normal activities is exciting and much anticipated by our children, but safety must not be overlooked. For more injury prevention tips or to learn more about scheduling a presentation with the Think First Helen Hayes Hospital Chapter of the award-winning ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation, please contact John Ficucello at 845-786-4799.