Pediatric Injury: Other FAQs

Basic information for topics, such as "What is it?" and "How many people are affected?" is available in the Condition Information section. In addition, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that are specific to a certain topic are answered in this section.

How can pediatric injury be prevented?

The NICHD, through its Division of Intramural Population Health Research (DIPHR), formerly the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics, and Prevention Research (DESPR), is a leader in population health research. Research conducted by the Division that is specifically concerned with pediatric injury includes studies about young novice drivers and adolescent problem behavior such as drug/substance use. In the Division of Extramural Research, the Child Development and Behavior Branch and the Pediatric Trauma and Critical Illness Branch (PTCIB) also support research relevant to pediatric injury, sexual violence, bullying, and other related topics. The PTCIB leads a federal interagency effort to study teen dating violence.

Parents and children can take a number of steps to prevent injuries to children from the leading causes:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
    • Use seat belts, child safety seats, and booster seats that are appropriate for a child's height and weight. Parents can learn more about appropriate car seats for each child's height and weight at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Safe Child page on preventing injuries from motor vehicle accidents.
    • Children younger than age 13 should sit in the middle of the back seat if possible. Air bags in the front seat can severely injure or kill small children.
    • Make sure children wear appropriate helmets any time they are on a motorcycle, bicycle, skateboard, scooter, or skates.
  • Substance use
    • The importance of prevention while adolescents are in their early teens cannot be overstated. A strong predictor of substance abuse (PDF - 97 KB) in adolescence and dependence in adulthood is early substance use. Among those who start drinking at age 14 or younger, later alcohol dependence can be as high as 40%. Younger drinking predicts binge drinking, drunk driving, and other alcohol misuse.
    • Social influence is another important predictor. Perceptions about friends' substance use are prospectively associated with adolescent use.
    • Most of the problems caused by early and extreme substance use are social, including school misconduct and family stress, but adolescent substance use is also associated with increased injury—mainly motor vehicle accidents due to driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs or riding with an impaired driver; injuries due to risk taking, fighting, or other violent behavior; and hospitalization due to accidental overdose of prescription pain medications—and the need for treatment for substance abuse or dependence.
    • Parents can be the key to preventing drug use by adolescents. A few resources for parents include NIDA for Teens Parents page, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's Make a Difference. Talk to Your Child about Alcohol, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Navigating the Teen Years: A Parent's Handbook for Raising Healthy Teens External Web Site Policy (PDF - 84 KB).
  • Dating violence
  • Suffocation
    • Place infants on their backs to sleep.
    • Use a crib or a bassinet for infants.
    • Do not let infants sleep in the same bed as parents.
    • Keep soft objects, such as toys or bedding, out of cribs.
    • Feed children age-appropriate food that has been cut into small, bite-size pieces.
    • Always supervise infants or young children while they are eating.
    • Teach children to chew and swallow their food thoroughly before talking or laughing.
    • Do not allow children to eat while running or playing.
    • Read age recommendations and choking hazard information for toys to determine appropriate toys.
    • Learn basic first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
    • Learn more at the CDC's Safe Child page on preventing suffocation.
  • Drowning
    • Learn the basics of swimming and CPR.
    • Place a fence around backyard swimming pools.
    • Make sure children wear life jackets in and around lakes, rivers, and the ocean. Children who are weak swimmers can wear life jackets around pools.
    • Always watch children closely when they are in or near any body of water, including the bathtub.
    • Learn more at the CDC's Safe Child page on preventing drowning.
  • Poisoning
    • Keep medicines and toxic products, such as household cleaners, in their original packaging and locked up where children cannot access them.
    • Place the nationwide poison control center phone number, 1-800-222-1222, on or near every telephone in the home and enter it into your cell phone.
    • Read label warnings and follow directions when giving children medicines.
    • Safely throw away medicines, vitamins, or supplements when they have expired or are no longer needed.
    • Learn more at the CDC's Safe Child page on preventing poisoning.
  • Burns from fires
    • Install smoke alarms on every floor in the home and near all rooms in which people sleep. Test the alarms once a month to make sure they work.
    • Create and practice an escape plan in the event of a fire.
    • Do not leave food unattended on the stove.
    • Supervise and restrict children's use of stoves, ovens, and microwaves.
    • Set the water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
    • Learn more at the CDC's Safe Child page on preventing burns.
  • Falls
    • Ensure that the ground under playground equipment is safe, soft, and well maintained.
    • Use window guards, stair gates, and guard rails in the home.
    • Make sure children wear protective gear during sports and recreation.
    • Supervise young children at all times when around hazards such as stairs or playground equipment.
    • Learn more at the CDC's Safe child page on preventing falls.

Visit the CDC's Safe Child website for more information about creating safe environments for children and preventing injuries.

Although the NICHD conducts and supports research on pediatric injury, its treatments, and its long-term outcomes, the Institute is not the primary federal source of information for non-researchers on injury statistics and information on preventing pediatric injuries. The CDC and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) provide a range of information for parents, caregivers, and families about ways to prevent childhood injury, safety recommendations, and product warnings and recalls. For more information, visit:

What does a safe infant sleep environment look like?

Parents can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and reduce the risk of injury by taking the following steps:

  • Always place infants on their backs to sleep.
  • Use the back sleep position every time.
  • Always place infants on a firm sleep surface, such as a safety-approved crib mattress covered with a fitted sheet.
  • Keep soft objects, toys, and loose bedding out of an infant's sleep area.
  • Avoid letting an infant overheat during sleep.
  • Think about using a clean, dry pacifier when placing an infant down to sleep.

Find more detailed information about creating a safe infant sleep environment at the NICHD's SIDS health topic page.

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