Cover Story

Summer Safety: St. Louis Children’s Hospital

When you’re a child, summer is a magical time filled with long days in the sun and playing outside until dark. With this freedom, however, can come new opportunities for injury and illness. The doctors at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and its pediatric emergency unit at Missouri Baptist Medical Center work tirelessly to not only treat common summer injuries, but also educate families on how to prevent them.

The pediatric emergency unit at Missouri Baptist Medical Center is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by specialty-trained pediatric nurses and Washington University–St. Louis Children’s Hospital pediatricians ready to help children and their families. The state-of-the-art ER sees about 5,500 pediatric patients each year and includes nine treatment rooms, six inpatient beds and a dedicated pediatric waiting room stocked with toys. Fortunately for families, wait times are often minimal, ensuring parents and children can return home as soon as possible.

“We think of summer as trauma season,” says hospital pediatrician Dr. Katherine Jones. “The nice thing about this time of year is that we see fewer of the common viruses, like flu and RSV, that bring kids to the ER, but we see far more injuries. Kids are outside playing around, and sometimes play leads to injury. We treat a lot of lacerations and broken bones.”

These are the most obvious summer injuries, but Jones notes others include sunburn (generally preventable by limiting exposure and liberal use of sunblock starting at age 6 months) and tick-borne or other insect-related illnesses. She recommends insect repellent containing up to 30 percent DEET for kids as young as 2 months. Jones says the more serious issue of hyperthermia is also a concern. “Never leave kids in a hot car, even briefly,” she notes.

Other major traumas witnessed in the ER when school is out are injuries sustained in ATV accidents or head injuries from biking accidents. Doctors heavily stress using standard safety practices and always wearing a helmet to help prevent or minimize injuries. Lawnmower accidents also can be serious or deadly. Jones recommends keeping young children inside when you are cutting the grass and never letting kids ride on a lawnmower.

Not surprisingly, the biggest prevention issue this time of year for kids is drowning injuries and deaths. “This is the most common cause of injury-related death during childhood,” Jones says. “We always emphasize vigilant supervision, pool safety and age-appropriate swim lessons for kids.” Sometimes parents are uncertain when an ER visit is appropriate. “I can’t emphasize enough the importance of parental intuition,” Jones notes. “If something doesn’t feel or look right to you as a parent, I always recommend that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Have your child checked out.”

Doctors at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and the Pediatric Emergency Unit at Missouri Baptist Medical Center work hard to treat common summer injuries and educate families about the best prevention methods. Pictured on the cover: Hospital pediatrician Dr. Katherine Jones with a patient. For more information, visit stlouischildrens.org.

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo by Bill Barrett

Pictured above: Pediatrician Katherine Jones.

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