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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Though summer hasn't even dawned yet, Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH) has already treated its first patients with lawn mower injuries. This means that as grass continues to grow through the warm months and school lets out, parents need to be on guard.
"If a trend like this starts early, it usually continues through the summer," said Donna Parnell-Beasley, RN, trauma coordinator for ACH. "Always know where children are when you're mowing."
Dale Blasier, MD, vice chief of Orthopedics at ACH and a professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine, said that "even a moment of inattention can lead to an injury which will last a lifetime."
Last year, the hospital treated several patients who were seriously injured in accidents involving lawn mowers. Parnell-Beasley points out that lawn mower injuries are usually penetrating and in many scenarios, amputation or partial amputation occurs.
"Some children even require subsequent hospitalizations for skin grafts and wound care," she said. "The injuries we see are typically to the hands or feet. These are devastating and disfiguring injuries."
Blasier emphasized that the injuries children sustain in lawnmower accidents often result in permanent disability to the extremities.
"The spinning mower blade carries a great deal of energy and can have devastating effects on kids. The types of injuries are similar to those seen after the recent Boston Marathon bombings," Blasier said. "Amputation and severe mangling can result.
"The wounds are generally ragged and filled with dirt and debris," Blasier said. "They're at high risk for infections. It's difficult to get them to heal, and they often require several surgeries."
Mary Aitken, MD, director of the Injury Prevention Center at ACH and a professor of Pediatrics at UAMS, advocates several tips for avoiding lawn mower accidents during the summer months.
"Straightforward prevention strategies can reduce these tragic events," she said. "These include making sure young children are supervised and away from lawn mowers, and that children are 12 years old before they operate lawnmowers or 16 before using a riding lawnmower. Further, children should not be allowed to play on or around mowers or ride as passengers."
Parents and caregivers need to remember that riding lawn mowers are not passenger vehicles. Children shouldn't be allowed to ride as passengers. Adolescents and teenagers who operate push-lawn mowers should wear long pants, protective boots and goggles because the machines can toss objects towards their faces.
"It is a vehicle, and it does require some critical thinking skills to maneuver," Aitken said.
As school lets out for the summer, parents should be aware when their neighbors are mowing. They should also talk to their children about staying away from lawn mowers and discuss safety.
(Source: Arkansas Children's Hospital)