SCI Can Happen to Anyone: Prevention of Pediatric Paralysis
One of the most difficult spinal cord injuries to see happen to anyone is a child. While adults are most injured, children are just as susceptible and unfortunately, there have been many instances where children have been injured. Life is inherently dangerous and not all spinal cord injuries can be prevented. There is however always room for improvement in measures of prevention, especially when it comes to children. Here are our tips.
Teach Children How the Spinal Cord Works
One of the most under-educated parts of the body that teachers do not teach children about is how the spinal cord works. Most are unaware that the spinal cord is encased under the vertebrae and if it is damaged slightly, even a bruise, you could be paralyzed permanently. If children are made aware of this as soon as they can comprehend it, it will likely make them be more aware of their actions.
Get the Proper Vaccinations
The polio vaccine has saved many children from paralysis. Even though it has been around for decades, it is still worthwhile to mention because of its importance. In countries where the polio vaccine is not widely available to all children, paralysis stemming from polio is still common.
Know the Signs of Meningitis and Transverse Myelitis
There are two conditions that can happen to children that many people are not aware of that can cause paralysis. The first is spinal meningitis, which is a viral infection of the fluid surrounding the spinal column and the brain. If spinal meningitis is not treated right away, it can lead to paralysis or death. If your child has any of the symptoms, take them to the ER right away: Sudden high fever, stiff neck, severe headache that seems different than normal, confusion or difficulty concentrating, seizures, sleepiness or difficulty waking.
For transverse myelitis, this condition can also cause paralysis due to a sudden inflammation of the spinal cord. It is important to get medical attention right away if you feel your child has any of the following symptoms: Weakness in the arms/legs, sensory symptoms such as numbness or tingling pain and discomfort, bladder dysfunction and/or bowel motility problems.
Avoid Dangerous Sports
It is common knowledge that there are a handful of sports that are more dangerous than others and are more likely to cause a spinal cord injury. Sports that involve tackling are at the top of the list. These include football, rugby, lacrosse, and hockey. Gymnastics, skiing, and diving are other sports that cause a high number of spinal cord injuries. It is not always possible however to force your children to stop playing a sport if you don't feel it is safe. If they still feel inclined to play a sport that is dangerous, see below.
Wear the Proper Equipment
It is important to make sure your children wear the proper safety equipment needed to stay protected when they play sports. This includes a bike helmet if they are avid bicycle riders or a helmet/padding whenever they play their sport. Also, make sure their safety gear is on properly.
Teach Student-Athletes How to Fall
If your child chooses to take part in a sport such as a hockey, football, rugby, or lacrosse, chances are they will at some point need to tackle their opponent or fall to the ground. There are certain techniques that can be taught to athletes so that they can be as safe as possible while playing. Ask your children's coaches if they have taught them these proper methods. If not, take it upon yourself to teach them. Search for videos online or you can also contact the Think First Foundation, who can provide you with safe play educational materials for your children. See here:
Tell Teens to Drink (and Ride Home) Smart
As your child becomes a teenager, it is important to teach them how to be safe when going out with their friends. Always wear a seat belt, and if they feel one of their friends has been drinking, make sure to tell them to always look for a sober ride home and that they can always call you if there's no one available. Make sure your child knows you would rather have them be safe and call you if they need you, then do something stupid. It is also important to teach them about safety when drinking, especially when driving.
Even then only 5% of all people with spinal cord injuries occur to children, it is important to teach them these important lessons. A spinal cord injury can alter someone's life forever and is a difficult path we would never choose for anyone.
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