Spring could be a season of cheer in the West. But in the US it could also be a time of concern for many families, it turns out.
For lawn-mower injuries shoot up around that time only. It is indeed a leading cause of amputations in adolescents.
Each year, lawn mower accidents send 9,400 U.S. children to the hospital, causing injuries more severe than any other tool or device, research shows. The most common injuries are lacerations, fractures and amputations of the fingers, hands, toes, feet and legs.
Most injuries occur when an operator is unaware that a child is behind the mower and shifts into reverse, backing over the child.
'The number-one advice to parents is: Treat the lawn mower as hazardous equipment, not a toy,' say say specialists from the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, Maryland's designated pediatric trauma center where the most severe injuries are treated.
Of the lawn mower accidents seen among patients at the Children's Center between 2000 and 2005, 95 percent were amputations that required reattachment or reconstructive surgery.
'Every year, we see several children so badly injured by lawn mowers that they need amputation or extensive reconstructive surgery,' says Rick Redett, director of reconstructive and plastic surgery at the Children's Center.
'Many more children end up in local emergency departments with a variety of mower-related injuries.'
Typically, Redett says, pediatricians see the first such injuries in late April, but this year, the first case came in March. He and his colleagues throughout the state and nation are alerting parents and other child caregivers to the dangers and providing tips for preventing such injuries.
* Keep children under 6 years old indoors while a power mower is in operation.
* Let no child under 12 use a walk-behind mower.
* Keep children under 16 off ride-on mowers, even if with a parent.
* If you are mowing and you see a child running toward you, turn off the mower immediately. Children can fall and slip into the blade, especially if the grass is wet.
* Wear protective goggles and close-toed shoes when operating a mower or when near one.
* Before mowing, clean the lawn of debris such as sticks and stones, which may get caught in the blades and propelled out.
* Buy mowers with a no-reverse safety feature that requires the operator to turn around (and see behind him) in order to shift into reverse.