Guest post by Kristen Sherman, D.O., Mercer Health Pediatrician
Warm, summer weather is finally here! Out come the bicycles, but where are the helmets?
It is recommended that children and adults alike wear helmets each time they are on a bicycle or other riding toy, such as a scooter, automated toy vehicle, etc. Bicycles are tied to more childhood injuries than swimming pools and trampolines! Hundreds of thousands of children are seriously injured each year in bicycle accidents, and there are hundreds that don’t survive those accidents. Approximately 75% of children that die in bicycle-related accidents each year could have been prevented with a helmet. It’s incredibly important to protect a child’s head and the precious cargo that it holds.
When buying a helmet for your child, be sure to purchase a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)-approved helmet (check for the sticker on the inside of the helmet). The bike helmet needs to fit properly on top of the child’s head, down over the forehead but not over the eyes, chinstraps fitted to be snug, and unable to move easily.
Appropriate bicycle size is also important to protect your child and will make it less likely that their helmet be scuffed. A child should be able to sit on the bicycle seat with their hands on the handlebars and balls of both feet touching the ground. Avoid buying a bike that your child “will grow into” as riding a bike too big for a child is dangerous. They will likely not have the strength and coordination to control a large bicycle making them more prone to accidents.
There are many reasons and excuses as to why children do not wear helmets. However, there are solutions to each of these excuses:
- “My child doesn’t like to wear it”
- Start young so they grow up with it as the norm. Once they are old enough, explain why helmets are important. For the sports enthusiasts out there, compare to athletes wearing their helmets.
- Ensure that they have a properly fitting helmet that is comfortable and that doesn’t obscure their vision.
- Talk to the other parents in the neighborhood and their friends’ parents to encourage helmet use in their peer group.
- Be a good example and wear a helmet when you’re riding your own bike. Children are much more likely to wear their helmet if their parents do.
- Be consistent and firm: no helmet, no bicycle. Allowing exceptions gives the impression that helmets aren’t important.
- “My child doesn’t mind wearing it, but forgets to put it on”
- Store their helmet on the handle of their bicycle. They won’t be able to miss it.
- “They’re not going far, what’s the likelihood of them getting severely injured?”
- Most bicycle injuries occur close to home. Even if they’re excellent at riding their bike, that doesn’t account for a younger child walking into their path, a car pulling out of a driveway and not seeing them, an uneven spot in the sidewalk or road that throws them off balance.
Do you have additional questions related to bicycle or helmet safety? Call your pediatrician; we are happy to help. The American Academy of Pediatrics also has a website to answer questions related to bicycles and helmets, as well as other components of your child’s health: www.healthychildren.org
Dr. Kristen Sherman is a pediatrician at Mercer Health Medical Group at Southland, Mercer Health’s primary care location in New Bremen. Other providers at Mercer Health Medical Group at Southland include Dr. Roode, Amanda Hurley, CNP, and Kate McCollum, CNP. To make an appointment at Mercer Health Medical group at Southland, call 419-629-2772