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Childhood Injuries and the Sibling Effect

While we have all observed that some kids seem to be more accident prone than others, experts don’t really have a good handle on why that is.  Studies have shown that boys are more likely to be injured than girls and that children who suffer from attention problems have higher rates of injury than those who don’t.  But beyond that, little is known about what makes one child more likely to get hurt than another.

But new research indicates there might be one thing parents can look out for this summer when trying to keep their families out of the emergency room:  Sibling injuries.

Dr. Brian D. Johnston, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, says that in his work with the Indian Health Services, he has noticed that injuries seem to cluster chronologically in families.  When one child in the family is injured to the point of requiring hospitalization, all the children in that family are at higher risk of getting injured within three months, usually with an entirely different type of injury.

He attributes this phenomenon to a condition called post-traumatic arousal, wherein a child is traumatized by a sibling injury to the point of becoming on edge himself.  Jittery and perhaps worried to the point of distraction, this child becomes more likely to be injured due to the fact that he’s worried about being injured.

Because kids are out of school and engaging in activities that are more dangerous than sitting in a classroom all day, summer is prime season for accidental injuries.  But rather than just bracing yourself for stitches and slings, parents can and should get proactive to prevent their children from getting hurt.

The Centers for Disease Control has lots of valuable information on home, recreational and motor vehicle safety.  And if it’s too late and somebody in your house has already been injured, check out After the Injury for tips on helping your child recover.

Image: thomaspetermueller/Flickr

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