Spring is here, the sky is blue, the grass is green and it is time to give that lawn a trim. But beware – lawn mower injuries are a seasonal threat to children and the leading cause of amputations in adolescents, said specialists from the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, Maryland’s designated pediatric trauma center.
“The number-one advice to parents is: Treat the lawn mower as hazardous equipment, not a toy,” said Carol Gentry, RN, pediatric operating room nurse manager, in a press release. “You don’t let a child play with an electric saw, and that is exactly what a lawn mower is.”
Each year, lawn mower accidents send 9,400 U.S. children to the hospital, causing injuries more severe than any other tool or device, research shows. The most common injuries are lacerations, fractures and amputations of fingers, hands, toes, feet and legs.
Most injuries occur when an operator is unaware that a child is behind the mower and shifts into reverse, backing over the child. Of the lawn mower accidents seen among patients at the Children’s Center between 2000 and 2005, 95% were amputations that required reattachment or reconstructive surgery.
“Every year, we see several children so badly injured by lawn mowers that they need amputation or extensive reconstructive surgery,” said Rick Redett, MD, director of reconstructive and plastic surgery at the Children’s Center. “Many more children end up in local emergency departments with a variety of mower-related injuries.”
Typically, Redett said, pediatricians see the first such injuries in late April, but this year, the first case came in March. He and his colleagues are alerting parents and other child caregivers to the dangers and providing the following tips for preventing such injuries:
- Keep children under 6 years old indoors while a power mower is in operation.
- Let no child under age 12 use a walk-behind mower.
- Keep children under age 16 off ride-on mowers, even if with a parent.
- If you are mowing and you see a child running toward you, turn off the mower immediately. Children can fall and slip into the blade, especially if the grass is wet.
- Wear protective goggles and close-toed shoes when operating a mower or when near one.
- Before mowing, clean the lawn of debris such as sticks and stones, which may get caught in the blades and propelled out.
- If injury occurs, call 911 immediately and apply pressure to the wound to stop bleeding while awaiting an ambulance.
- Buy mowers with a no-reverse safety feature that requires the operator to turn around and look behind to shift into reverse.