Baby's First Year · Parenting

Safety First: Tips to prevent childhood head injuries

Your child’s brain starts developing before they are born. During the first three years of life, brain connections are shaped and strengthened, based on their experiences. A healthy brain is important to overall health and development. Injury to the brain can affect a child’s ability to learn, move, communicate and experience emotions.

A recent study led by researchers in Toronto shows that children under 5 years of age have the highest rate of concussion – a form of brain injury – compared to older children, teens and adults of all ages.

Parents and caregivers play an important role in keeping children safe.

Today is National Injury Prevention Day, a day to raise awareness on the importance of injury prevention. Here are some important tips to help prevent childhood falls and head injuries:

Create a safe environment for your child to grow and play. Falls are the most common injury in infants and young children. To reduce your child’s risk, set up safety gates near stairs and use safety guards to limit how wide windows can open. If you live in an apartment, keep balcony doors locked when you are not nearby and move furniture away from the balcony railing. When using a changing table, use safety straps and keep one hand on your baby at all times.  

Watch your child. It’s important to stay alert and attentive to your child while they play and explore. Research shows that when we are distracted, our children are at greater risk of injury – they may even take more risks to try to get our attention! Consider ways to reduce distractions when caring for your child, such as setting limits with your mobile device or turning off the television.

Always use a car seat when travelling in a car. When used correctly, car seats prevent 75% of serious injuries in children. Be sure to check your car seat and vehicle manuals carefully to install and use the car seat safely.

Always wear a helmet during wheeled activities. When your family is staying active, be sure to think about safety! Whether your child is buckled into a bicycle trailer or seat, skating or riding a scooter, a helmet is important to protect their head in case of a fall or accident. Make sure the helmet fits properly. Be a good role model and wear your helmet too!

Never shake your baby. Shaking a baby can lead to brain damage, permanent disabilities or death. If you are experiencing stress in your parenting journey, please ask a close family member or friend for help or contact Toronto Public Health to learn about programs that are available to support you. 

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