You’re in the stands cheering on your kid as he or she is playing their favourite sport, when suddenly, they take a hard hit to the head. You panic, rush to the sidelines, and make sure they are alright.

Checking for signs of a possible concussion, you and the coach agree to remove your child from the game and you head straight to the doctor.

Well done! The first step is to always take a significant hit to the head seriously. Here are some of the symptoms to watch for:

Most symptoms show up within minutes or hours, but others may take longer to appear. Getting to the hospital is always the right thing to do.

But what happens after the doctor confirms a concussion? What does the road to recovery look like and what should you do as a parent?

While each concussion is different, medical experts pinpoint early detection and brain rest as the first steps to helping concussed kids recover more completely. At their young ages, the brain is still developing and improper diagnosis, treatment, or too quick of a return to normal activity may lead to long-term problems.

Pediatric neurologists say that at minimum, two or three days of rest can help with such blows to the brain. That doesn’t just mean no sports or running around, but also no electronic devices, school work, video games, and anything else that can challenge or stress the brain.

A hard hit needs to be taken seriously. In Canada, 39% of all kids between 10 and 18 who visited an emergency facility following a sports-related head injuries were diagnosed with a concussion, while another 24% showed signs of possible concussion. Three sports in particular – football, soccer, and hockey – show a greater increase in reported head injuries in the decade between 2004 and 2014. Of course, sports are not the only cause of a concussion: falls, car crashes, and other whacks to the head can also cause a concussion. But no matter the cause of the injury, your focus needs to be on treatment and recovery.

There’s good news, though! Medical researchers in Nebraska found that 80 to 90% of sport concussions resolve in two to three weeks. This is if the child has been treated and follows medical advice. Doing so can also help prevent more serious brain injuries at a time when the child is vulnerable to other jolts to the head. If the problem persists beyond that point, another trip to the doctor is in order.

Catching a concussion early, preventing further activity, and seeking immediate medical attention are all helpful steps to healthy attitudes and healthy kids.

For more information

A new sport season is about to kick off and that means all sorts of active fun. But are your kids playing it safe? If they do get hurt, do you know how to identify a concussion? And do you know what to do? These are questions every parent should be asking themselves whenever their child begins a sport.

A fall, a bump, a knock, or blow to the body can happen in almost any sport. But if the force from that hit affects your head, it can injure your brain and leave you with a concussion.

Kids are more susceptible to suffering a concussion because their bodies haven’t fully developed. They’re smaller, have weaker muscles, and thinner skulls than adults. They’re also more active, rambunctious, and not fully aware of the risks.

While we hear a lot about concussions in contact sports like football and hockey, it doesn’t mean those are the only ones. Young athletes can also get concussed taking part in all sorts of sports activities – soccer, skiing, field hockey, and cycling.

If your child has taken hit to the head, you need to know what to watch for. Common concussion symptoms include:

If any of these symptoms are present and you think your kid has suffered a concussion, take immediate action. The first step is an immediate stop to all play. No sporting moment, big or small, is worth risking your child’s health. After that, seek medical help. That means a trip to the emergency room or the family doctor for a proper assessment. Once they’re home, keep them hydrated, rested, and off the field of play. Recovering from a concussion is a serious matter and it takes time.

If left untreated, a concussion can lead to bigger problems down the road – including permanent brain injury and even death. And no game or trophy is worth risking that.

For more information

Would you drive drunk with your kid in the car? Of course not! Then why do you text and drive? You’re putting their lives at risk and teaching them a horrible lesson. If they’re drivers or close to driving age, your teenage kids are at risk of doing the same thing. And the results are tragic.

In BC, the top three causes of fatal car crashes between 2010 and 2014 for ages 16 to 21 were:

You warn your kids about the dangers of speeding and drunk driving. The same tough message has to come about distracted driving. So lead by example and put your phone away when you’re in the driver’s seat.

There is good news. The rate of drunk-driving crashes has been going down. But there’s bad news. Crashes involving distracted drivers are way up, especially texting and driving. That message just isn’t getting through.

The research is pretty clear – texting and driving is dangerous! Distracted drivers are responsible for almost a quarter of all fatal car crashes in BC. If you’re using your phone behind the wheel, you’re about five times more likely to be in a crash than if you left the phone alone. Some research even suggests you’d be more alert if you were driving drunk (although you should never do that!) than texting while driving.

If you texting while driving, your physical and mental capacity is reduced. Your eyes are not on the road, your hands are removed from the steering wheel, and your concentration is on something other than driving.

That means your reaction time is severely reduced – all it takes is a second or two for a serious crash to happen.

So set an example for your kids. Leave the phone alone. Pull over if you need to use your phone. And eliminate temptation by turning off your phone before you start the engine. No message on your phone is more serious than this: distracted driving is deadly!

For more information

Last one in is a rotten egg! Summer’s here and there’s nothing like a dip in the water to cool off on a hot day. But whether it’s at a local lake or a backyard pool, a drowning tragedy can happen in seconds. Parents and kids need to remember that when it comes to water activities, it’s safety first.

According to the Canadian Red Cross, drowning is a leading cause of accidental death for kids under the age of four. That age group is also one of the highest at risk for drowning. It can happen in mere moments, even in shallow water. But a few precautions can keep your kids safe.

Make sure they know how to swim. Many local community centres offer swim programs or you can get private lessons from qualified instructors. You can find lots of options using Google. While you’re at it, take a few lessons yourself in CPR and other life-saving First Aid techniques.

Never leave children unattended, even if they can swim. Remind the kids no running poolside, no pushing, no dunking, and absolutely no horseplay. And no false calls for help. Playing safe is serious stuff.

Make sure you know where life-saving equipment is located (a life ring or reaching pole). And don’t just rely on inflatables like water wings. Remind your kids to stay away from pool drains, pipes, and other openings. A tiny hand or arm or even long hair can easily get caught, dragging the child down.

If you’re swimming in a river, lake, or the ocean, always follow the water safety signs. Tides, currents, and weather conditions can change rapidly and the bottom can be uneven or hide unwanted surprises. Go where there is a lifeguard and follow the instructions. If the sign says “danger,” don’t swim there.

For more information

There is something in your home posing a great risk to your children and their safety and you may not even be giving it a second thought. Furniture tip-overs are a common occurrence, resulting in some very serious injuries, even death. In the US, the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that each year, 8,000 to 10,000 people are injured by falling furniture – and many of them are children.

Just a few weeks ago, IKEA recalled millions of their popular Malm dressers across the United States and Canada. This was following the death of six children in the US. Given the popularity of this particular dresser, you may even have one in your home. If you do, you should read the statement issued by IKEA Canada regarding the recall.

What causes furniture to be a danger? Much like the Malm dresser problem, most furniture-related injuries occur when an unsecured piece of furniture falls or tips-over on to a person. It’s especially dangerous for small children. Many times a child will pull the furniture onto themselves or cause a tip-over by climbing on the furniture. In other cases, they may even push it over on another child.

Here are a few things you can do to minimize the risks:

Small children don’t have the awareness of the dangers or the speed and strength to save themselves from a furniture tip-over accident. That’s why it is important for parents to secure furnishings within the home and reduce the risk of an accident.

For more information

Grade 12 students across British Columbia are anxiously counting down the final weeks of the academic calendar and their high school years. No doubt, graduation is a milestone in a young person’s life – a time filled with great anticipation and celebration.

Whether it’s the prom or the parties or the graduation ceremony itself, it’s a chockablock time of social and commemorative events. Unfortunately, some of those festivities end in tragedy on our streets and highways. Dangerous driving practices cut down too many young lives in this province. That’s why it is so important that we get the message out to young people.

The statistics are shocking and tragic. On average, 32 people in BC between the ages of 16 and 21 are killed in automobile accidents. Six of those deaths happen during the graduation season. The leading causes of those fatal crashes are speeding (39%), impaired driving (27%), and distracted driving (22%).

If you are a parent, relative, or friend of a graduate getting ready to celebrate, make sure they know how serious the matter is and that they should not participate in any of these activities. And just as important, make sure they don’t let their friends partake either.

It is a challenging, sometimes uncomfortable discussion for many adults to talk to talk to teenagers about – especially on the subject of drugs and underage drinking – but it is both responsible and vital. And it is a far easier conversation than speaking to a police officer after a tragic event.

So give your graduate the best gift possible: sit down with them and have that talk. Some things to go over:

These aren’t just important conversations to have at grad time or with teenagers alone – they apply to all of us at all time. But knowing the statistics and the risks inherent with this time of year, it’s a good idea to drive home those points about safe and responsible road habits.

For more information

Did you know that children’s vinyl (PVC) school supplies, like backpacks, lunchboxes, and 3-ring binders, can contain toxic chemicals?

According to The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), chemicals released by the PVC lifecycle have been linked to chronic diseases  like cancer, asthma, learning and developmental disabilities, obesity, and even reproductive disorders. PVC releases a toxic cocktail of chemicals including the Agent Orange chemical dioxin, phthalates, vinyl chloride, ethylene dichloride, mercury, lead, cadmium, and organotin.

That lovely “new” smell so often found in plastics is an evaporation of chemicals known as “outgassing”. And these dangerous chemicals do not disappear once the smell wears off. PVC releases volatile organic compounds right up to its disposal. These hazardous chemicals irritate eyes, noses and throats, causing coughing, headaches, dizziness and nausea. They can also cause cancer, making it the worst plastic for our health and the environment.

The BC Ministry of Children and Family Development knowingly left four children in the hands of their abusive father according to The Vancouver Sun.

Acting on an unnamed tip, social workers deemed the children’s mother mentally ill and removed them from her care. Despite abuse allegations and a Supreme Court order, the ministry gave their father unsupervised access to his children. He sexually and physically abused them for nearly three years before the ministry realized they were aiding an abusive father.

The BC Supreme Court Judge issued a blistering decision in finding the Ministry liable for misfeasance, negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. The article in the Vancouver Sun noted:

“Their conduct was manipulative and malicious, the justice said, and they “lost sight of their duties, professionalism and their objectivity.”

“In conclusion, I wish to add that (the mother) assumed and carried out the director’s statutory mandate to protect her children,” he said at the end of the 125,000-word excoriation.”

“If it were not for the herculean efforts of (the mother), the children would now, through the fault of the director (of child, family and community services), be in the custody of their father who sexually and physically abused them.”

School’s out for the summer! Vancouver children are enjoying their freedom by riding their bicycles all day. You’ll see children cycling on city and suburban streets, trails, bridges, and seawalls.

According to the City of Surrey, over 50,000 Canadians sustained brain injuries in 2012 and these injuries involved both adults and children. Head injuries are also the leading cause of serious injury and death to kids on bicycles.

Here are some bike helmet safety tips for children.

  1. The helmet should sit two fingers’ width above your child’s eyebrows. Your child should be able to look up and see the helmet on their forehead and the helmet should sit level on their head. Your child’s head is not protected if the helmet is tipped back.
  2. The helmet straps should form a “V” under your child’s ears. This positioning helps keep the helmet in the proper position.
  3. There should be one finger space between their chin and the strap. This means there should be just enough room to ensure they don’t get pinched when you are strapping the helmet on.
  4. The helmet should not slide around on you child’s head and it should fit snugly.

The impact of missed childhood sports concussions can be devastating. Parents familiar with concussion symptoms help their child play sports in the safest way possible.

“It’s critical to be aware of the prevention and treatment of concussions, which are brain injuries that occur when the head is struck or suddenly jarred,” according to a recent Chicago Tribune article.

Tips to Avoid Childhood Concussions

  1. Form strong relationships with coaches. Parents should confirm coaches and trainers are keenly aware of concussion symptoms and treatment. Coaches should also know the guidelines for children returning to sports after suffering a head injury.
  1. Children should wear protective gear relevant to their sport. Optimal safety gear is the correct size and fits well. Parents should ensure their child’s protective gear is approved by the organization that governs their sport. For example, the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) approves face masks and helmets.
  1. Ask coaches if they perform pre-season tests to establish baseline neurological data. The pre-season information helps determine how severe concussions are.