Kids' Deaths from Accidental Injuries Dropped Over Past Decade

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The percentage of children who die from unintentional injuries, such as car accidents, falls and drowning, is on the decline, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 2000 and 2009, death rates from unintentional injuries among children and teens declined 30 percent — from 15.5 deaths per 100,000 children to 11.0 deaths per 100,000 children.

However, death rates from some types of injuries, including suffocation and poisoning are on the rise, the report says.

Over the study period, there was a 54 percent increase in reported suffocation among infants less than 1 year old. There were 526 reported deaths nationwide due to suffocation reported in the age group in 2000; there were 907 in 2009.

And there was a 91 percent increase in poisoning rates among teens ages 15 to 19. This increase is largely due to prescription drug overdose, the report said. There were 351 reported cases of fatal poisoning in these teens in 2000; there were 715 in 2009.

"Kids are safer from injuries today than ever before. In fact, the decrease in injury death rates in the past decade has resulted in more than 11,000 children's lives being saved," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said. "But we can do more. It's tragic and unacceptable when we lose even one child to an avoidable injury," Frieden said.

The United States has one of the highest child injury death rates of all high-income countries, the report said.

For the report, CDC researchers examined death certificates for people ages 19 and under from all 50 states.

In 2009, more than 9,000 children died of unintentional injuries, with motor vehicle crashes being the top cause of death from injury. More than 4,500 children died from motor vehicle crashes, 1,160 from suffocation and 824 from poisoning.

Death rates in 2009 varied by state, ranging from fewer than 5 deaths per 100,000 children in Massachusetts and New Jersey, to more than 23 deaths per 100,000 children in South Dakota and Mississippi.

In that year, more than 5,700 children's lives would have been saved if the lowest state death rate had been achieved nationally, the report says.

To reduce deaths from prescription drug overdose, the CDC recommends appropriate prescribing, proper storage and disposal of medication, and discouraging medication sharing.

The increase in suffocation deaths among infants could be curbed by following the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations to place sleeping infants on their backs in safe cribs, alone, with no loose bedding or soft toys.

"Child injury remains a serious problem in which everyone — including parents, state health officials, health care providers, government and community groups — has a critical role to play to protect and save the lives of our young people," said Linda C. Degutis, director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Being a good role model, through actions such as wearing a seat belt while in a car and a helmet while on a bicycle, and following other safety tips, can reduce childhood deaths from injury, the report says.

Pass it on:  Overall, death rates from unintentional injuries among children are on the decline, but deaths from suffocation and drug overdose are on the rise.

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