Fletcher Allen, a Vermont university hospital and medical center, serves all of
Vermont and the northern New York region. Located in Burlington, Fletcher Allen is a regional, academic healthcare center and teaching hospital in alliance with the University of Vermont.
Keep Your Lawn Short and Your Children Safe at the Same Time
With summer in full swing, children are out playing and adults are mowing lawns – often at the same time. Children and lawn mowers are never a good combination, so this week let me take a cut at the dangers of lawnmowers so we can all prevent injuries.
Nearly 16,000 children each year get injured from a lawn mower. Half of those injuries are due to problems with children on riding mowers or playing with power mowers. Almost 10% of these children need to be hospitalized, which is twice the rate of other consumer product injuries. Lawn mower injuries to children include deep cuts, loss of fingers and toes, broken and dislocated bones, burns, eye damage, and other injuries.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently made the following recommendations for preventing lawn mower injuries in children:
- Children should be at least 16 years old to operate ride-on mowers and 12 years of age to use push mowers. It’s not just the age requirement that allows them to operate these machines: They need to demonstrate appropriate levels of judgment, strength, coordination, and maturity. Children should receive a period of operational training, safety instruction, and supervision by an adult before they mow the lawn on their own.
- Before mowing, make sure your teen clears the area of twigs, stones, and
toys that can be picked up and thrown by the mower blades. Make sure
the mower is in good condition and protective guards, shields, the grass
catcher and other safety equipment are in working order.
- Teens should wear sturdy shoes and not sandals and wear protective
clothing and eyewear to protect against flying debris. Ear plugs can
also be useful to prevent hearing damage.
- Teens should never pull the mower backward or mow in reverse.
- When a teen has finished mowing, they should turn off a power mower and
wait for the blades to stop before removing the grass catcher,
unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel paths, roads or other
areas with the mower.
- No children should be allowed to ride as passengers on mowers or to be towed behind mowers in carts or trailers. Children under six should be kept indoors during all mowing.
- Remind teens that other garden power equipment such as clippers and weed trimmers should never be left out unattended. Also, they should keep cans of gasoline and other hazardous materials out of reach of younger children and never start or refuel a mower in a garage or shed.
Hopefully tips like these will prevent you or your mower from becoming a pain in the grass when it comes to keeping your child safe this summer.
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids.