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A cart full of danger

Aug 9, 2006 | Of all the things parents worry about, a child taking a nosedive off a shopping cart and suffering a concussion or fractured skull has to be near the bottom of the list.
But it may happen more often than you think. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates in a new report that 20,700 children younger than 5 years old were treated in U.S. emergency rooms last year after "shopping cart-related injuries."
Head and neck injuries are the most common, the group said. One out of 25 children injured in shopping cart mishaps is hospitalized, and some have died, the group said.
A falling kid is most likely to land on his or her noggin because children have large heads in proportion to the rest of their bodies, said Dr. Mary Christine Bailey, director of the pediatric emergency department at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.
"Gravity makes it so the most probable place they're going to land is headfirst," Bailey said.
Seat belts are installed on many shopping carts to prevent falls. I think it helps a lot, especially if you turn your back and they move a little bit," said Laurie, a Framingham woman who went shopping with her 1-year-old niece, Taylor, yesterday at Super Stop & Shop on Temple Street in Framingham. Laurie, a mother of two, said shopping cart "buggies" that have seats and buckles for two children are also helpful.

Falls account for more than half of shopping cart injuries, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Carts tipping over account for up to a quarter of the injuries.

Parents usually keep infants firmly strapped in, but 2-year-olds often roam the larger portion of the cart and find a way to hurt themselves, said Dr. June Hanly, director of pediatric emergency medicine at MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham.

"They're standing in the cart and they're either going to try to jump out or crawl out," Hanly said.

Once children reach the age of 3, they're smarter and less likely to find their way from the cart to the floor, Hanly said.
Hanly and Bailey said they see shopping cart-related injuries less than once a month. An emergency doctor at Milford Regional Medical Center could not recall any such incidents in the past year, said Terri McDonald, a spokeswoman for the hospital.
"It doesn't sound like something that comes through our emergency department that often," McDonald said.
In rare cases, Bailey said children suffer skull fractures that increase the risk of brain injury. CT scans of the head are performed in those instances, but in the vast majority of cases there is no significant injury to the brain, she said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said the United States should revise shopping cart standards to prevent tip-overs and include better child-restraint systems. Placing child seats closer to the ground could lessen severity of injuries from falls, the group said.

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