About Pediatric Injury

Pediatric injury is a broad category that refers to physical harm to a child, typically defined as someone between 1 year and 18 years of age.

Pediatric injuries have many different causes, severities, and effects.1,2

  • Some—like insect bites—can be relatively mild and may not require medical attention. Others—like motor vehicle crashes—can be severe, life-threatening, or life-changing.
  • Injuries can be unintentional or accidental, such as those resulting from a fall off a bicycle. They can also be intentional or done on purpose, such as homicides, suicides, maltreatment, and violence.
  • In some cases, injuries are so severe that they are fatal. When they aren’t fatal, they may lead to lifelong physical or mental health problems and disabilities, requiring intense or specialized care.

NICHD studies different factors related to pediatric injury and trauma, their causes, and different types of care required for treatment and recovery. The institute does not collect statistics on pediatric injuries but does fund studies that use statistics in developing prevention programs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) leads efforts to count pediatric injuries, their common causes, their severity, and other details. For more information on the most common types of pediatric injuries and on ways to prevent certain types of these injuries, visit the CDC Injury Prevention and Control webpage.

What is pediatric emergency medicine?3,4

Pediatric emergency medicine focuses on the immediate care of infants, children, and adolescents with acute illness or injuries that require urgent medical attention. Treatment and care provided in hospital emergency departments are generally not long term or continuing. Pediatric emergency medicine physicians consult with physicians from other specialties to resuscitate and stabilize children who are seriously ill or injured.

What are emergency medical services for children (EMSC)?

EMSC is care that aims to reduce children’s disability and death from severe illness or injury by increasing awareness and enhancing capabilities among pre-hospital, health systems, healthcare providers, and the general public of the special (physiological and psychological) needs of children receiving emergency medical care.

What is pediatric critical care?

Children who have severe or life-threatening injuries need critical care, which includes constant monitoring and specialized treatments. Critical care happens in hospital pediatric intensive care units (PICUs). PICUs are staffed by physicians with specialized training to care for children with traumatic injuries; these specialists are often called pediatric intensivists.

Because injuries can affect many parts of the body at once, PICUs have access to many healthcare providers who specialize in many types of medicine. These specialists may include emergency medicine physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, cardiologists, neurologists, and others. PICUs may also have access to pediatricians, nurses, social workers, psychologists, physical and occupational therapists, speech therapists, pharmacists, and others who help injured children and their families heal and recover.2


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. (2019). Protect the ones you love: Child injuries are preventable. Retrieved January 13, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/Injury/
  2. CDC, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. (2012). Vital signs: Child injury. Retrieved January 13, 2020, from http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/ChildInjury/index.html
  3. McDermott, K. W., Stocks, C., & Freeman, W. J. (2018). Overview of pediatric emergency department visits, 2015 (HCUP Statistical Brief #242) (PDF 171 KB). Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Retrieved February 19, 2020, from http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb242-Pediatric-ED-Visits-2015.pdf (PDF 171 KB)
  4. Albert, M., & McCraig, L. F. (2014). Injury-related emergency department visits by children and adolescents: United States, 2009–2010 (NCHS Data Brief No. 150). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved February 19, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db150.htm
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