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Mercy Pediatrics risk assessment promotes kids' safety

Protecting children from injury depends on parents and role models taking the right steps to promote safety, and making those habits second nature as their kids grow.

Mercy Medical Center 's Pediatrics Department is doing its part to help families make the right choices in teaching their children good safety habits, starting with car safety seats.

Since last fall, Pediatrics has added a risk assessment to its admission process. Staff members ask parents what type of child restraint they use in their vehicles: booster seat, rear-facing child seat or lap and shoulder belts for older kids. They also ask where in the vehicle the child typically sits.

Under Iowa state law, children must ride:

  • facing the rear until they are 1 year old and weigh 20 lbs.
  • in a child safety seat or booster seat until they are age 6
  • In a booster seat or seat belt if they are 6-11 years old

Of the 80 kids admitted during February, only four were using the wrong child restraint, according to the risk assessments, says Connie Hauskins, Pediatrics Nurse Manager. She gets a daily report reflecting admissions and makes time to talk with families if there is a concern.

"Overall, I feel very comfortable that parents have their kids in the right seat in the right place in their cars," Hauskins adds, but isn't sure if those seats are installed correctly.

Proper use of safety seats is considered a major factor in reducing kids' injury or death in motor vehicle accidents, which is the leading cause of injury and death among children.

Pediatrics staff members have also asked all parents if their child wears a helmet for bicycling or skating. If their child has had a head injury, pediatrics replaces their helmet or provides a new one.

If a child has suffered a concussion, extra precautions are advised - such as wearing a bicycle helmet - to protect the child from further injury.

Because no state law requires children to wear bike helmets, many do not, Hauskins notes. Pediatrics' risk assessments have found so far that fewer than 50 percent of families asked said their child used a helmet.

"I think it's just not a habit for everyone," Hauskins says. "But kids suffer head injuries a lot while riding bicycles. Wearing a helmet really does reduce your chances of serious injury. It gives you an 85 percent chance of reducing the risk of brain injury."

Mercy Pediatrics is part of Safe Kids Linn County , a group of community outreach partners working to educate and protect families. It sponsors free child safety seat checks to demonstrate the correct way to install safety seats. Car seat checks are offered on the second Thursday of each month 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Saturn of Cedar Rapids. Call (319) 310-SEAT to schedule a safety seat inspection.

Safe  Kids Linn County also works with local schools and agencies to teach the proper use and fit of bicycle helmets. To purchase a bike helmet, call Hauskins at (319) 398-6287.

The group also provides information on playground safety, poisoning, water safety, seasonal injuries, toy safety, fire safety and more. For more information, email Hauskins atchauskins@mercycare.org.