The Dangers of Winter Coats in Car Seats

As temperatures dip we bundle our children up to prepare them for the elements, but even with good intentions, a bulky coat and a car seat is a dangerous combination.

We all want to keep our children warm while traveling in the car, but there are ways to safely transport children in the cold weather while still keeping them warm.

As a general rule, winter coats should not be worn underneath the harness of a car seat. A bulky coat under a child seat harness can result in the harness being too loose to be effective in a crash. Here is a simple way to check if your child’s coat is too big to wear under their harness, as well as what you can do test if it’s too big:

  • Put the coat on your child, sit them in the child seat and fasten the harness. Tighten the harness until you can no longer pinch any of the harness webbing with your thumb and forefinger.
  • Without loosening the harness, remove your child from the child seat,
  • Take the coat off, and put your child back in the child seat and buckle the harness straps, which are still adjusted as they were when he was wearing the coat.
  • If you can now pinch the webbing between your thumb and forefinger, then the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.

If you find that the coat cannot be safely worn under the harness, here are a couple things you can do to keep your child safe and warm in his/her child seat.

  • After securing your child in his/her child seat, turn the coat around and put it on backward with their arms through the arm holes and the back of the coat acting like a blanket
  • Lay a blanket over your child to keep him/her warm.

One of the most common misuse conditions seen in child seats is that the harness is too loose, and wearing a big winter coat under the harness is just one of the ways that it can happen. It is very important that the harness is tight enough that you can’t pinch the webbing between your thumb and forefinger. Extra slack in the harness can be very dangerous; it can lead to too much excursion or even ejection during a crash.

These tips should help keep your precious little ones safe and warm this winter.

For more information about car seat safety, contact Safe Kids Grand Forks at Altru Health System is proud to serve as the lead agency for Safe Kids Grand Forks.

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Safe Kids Grand Forks Talks Bike Helmets

Summer is in full swing and kids are wheeling their bikes out in the nice weather. It is important for both parents and children to remember to wear their helmets at all times when riding a bike. Helmets are 85% effective in reducing head injuries. Head injuries can cause life altering injuries, disabilities, or even death. It is important for parents to set the example and wear helmets when riding, not just as a role model for children, but for their own protection.

Here are some injury statistics concerning wheeled sports activities:

  • On average over 80 children 14 and under are killed in cycle-related incidents.
  • Over 200,000 children are injured in cycle-related crashes each year.
  • Each year, over 60,000 children 14 and under are injured while using skateboards, inline skates or scooters.
  • Head-injury is the leading cause of wheeled sports-related deaths and the most important determinant of permanent disability after a crash.

Here’s the good news:

  • Since 1988, bicycle injury deaths have decreased by 78%.
  • Nationwide, the use of wheeled sports helmets by children has increased from 15% to nearly 45%.
  • Bicycle helmets have been proven to decrease the risk of a brain injury by almost 90%.

Wearing a helmet for wheeled sports is the single most effective way to prevent serious injury or death.

This is a bicycle helmet. If you fall off your bike, you are most likely to hit the side or front of your head. This helmet protects those parts of your head. It is for bike riding only – it should not be used for any other wheeled sports, as it does not provide adequate protection!

This is a multi-sport helmet. It can be used for all non-motorized wheeled sports (inline skating, skateboarding, scooter, bicycling). If you fall when doing some of these activities, you are most likely to hit the back, side or front of your head. This helmet protects those parts of your head.

This is a toddler helmet. It is usually used by children who ride on tricycles as they tend to tip over backwards and thus need additional protection at the base of the brain. This helmet looks a lot like a multi-sport helmet.

If you would like to purchase bike helmets at a reduced price, Safe Kids Grand Forks has two types of helmets available for both adults and children.

Bike helmets are available for $8, and are to be used exclusively on bikes.

Multi-sport helmets are also available, which can be used for skateboarding, biking, rollerblading, and on scooters. The multi-sport helmets cost $12 each.

Both bike and multi-sport helmets come in a variety of colors.

For more information, contact Safe Kids Grand Forks at Altru Health System is proud to serve as the lead agency for Safe Kids Grand Forks.

If you would like to receive email notification when our new posts are available, please email Asked to be added to our notification list for the Area Voices blog and/or Safe Kids quarterly newsletter.

Travel Safety: Whether by Planes, Trains, or Automobiles

Warm weather often brings travel to the lake, a visit to relatives or exploring in other states or places of interest. Besides keeping kids safe in their mode of transportation, there are lots of other considerations that need to be made when preparing for travel. Here are some suggestions from Safe Kids Grand Forks to keep your family and kids safe while traveling and away from home.

~ Be sure to check with airlines to see what seats they allow on planes. Usually only ones with a harness system are allowed to be used on the airplane seat. Others must be checked as luggage. If you need a seat at your final destination, determine that need ahead of time in case car seat rental companies don’t have them to rent. Safe Kids does have some travel vest options available for use for a donation to our coalition.

~ Be aware that you need to follow the laws in each state you are driving through. Therefore, if you cross states with differing ages for kids to be in car seats, you must abide by the laws in each of those states. Check out for a list of car seat laws by state.

~ Think about what activities your family will be doing while on vacation. If you are participating in water sports, be sure you will have access to life jackets. Maybe horse back riding is in your plans; think ahead for helmet needs and assure that there are helmets to fit the ages of your children.

~ When packing your suitcase, be sure to keep all medications in their original containers. This will usually assure that they have child resistant covers and if there is a medication exposure, it will be easier to identify the exposure and how many pills were accessed.

~ When arriving at a hotel or resort area, be sure to check your fire escape route. These are usually posted on the doors of hotel rooms, but knowing where the exits are PRIOR to an emergency is always helpful.

~ Make yourself aware of conditions in the water that may not be familiar to your home locations. For example, rip currents, tides and the undertow may not be something your swimmers are accustomed to. Swim in areas where there are lifeguards and follow posted warnings.

~ If you are traveling with small children, think about childproofing the hotel rooms where you are staying. Throw a few extra outlet covers in your suitcase and consider a door knob cover for the bathroom.

~ Check hotel pool areas for fencing or locked access gates so kids that wander off cannot get into the pool area.

~ Read and follow height recommendations for amusement park rides. These are posted for the safety of the riders and should be adhered to.

For more information on summer travel safety, contact Safe Kids Grand Forks at Altru Health System is proud to serve as the lead agency for Safe Kids Grand Forks.

If you would like to receive email notification when our new posts are available, please email Asked to be added to our notification list for the Area Voices blog and/or Safe Kids quarterly newsletter.


Safe Kids Grand Forks talks about Heatstroke

Each year, there are between 30- 50 children who die from being left in a vehicle in which the rising temperature causes their death. This year 5 children have already died due to heatstroke in the US. The graph shown marks the trends seen over the years from this type of death.

Sadly, it does not take a 90 degree day for a child to be overcome by the effects of overheating. The average elapsed time and inside vehicle temperature rise compared to ambient temperatures are as follows:

10 minutes = 19 degree increase

20 minutes = 29 degree increase

30 minutes = 34 degree increase

1 hour = 43 degree increase

Therefore, on a 60 degree day, the internal temperatures of a vehicle can reach over 100 degrees within one hour. A child’s body warms 3-5 times faster than an adult’s body. Heatstroke will result when the core body temperature reaches 104 degrees and when the temperature rises to 107 degrees, it is almost always fatal! Symptoms can quickly progress from flushed, dry skin and vomiting to seizures, organ failure and death. This tragedy can be prevents if parents, caregivers, bystanders and the public remember to ACT. 

AVOID heat stroke-related injury and death by:
- Never leaving your child alone in the car, even for one minute.
- Consistently locking unattended vehicle doors and trunks so children cannot climb in without your knowledge. 

CREATE reminders and habits that give you and your child’s caregiver a safety net:
- Establish a peace-of-mind plan. When you drop off your child, make a habit of calling or texting all other caregivers, so all of you know where your child is at all times.
- Place a purse, briefcase, gym bag, cell phone or any item that is needed at your next stop in the back seat.
- Set the alarm on your cell phone or computer calendar as a reminder to drop your child off at childcare. 

TAKE action if you see an unattended child in a vehicle:
- Dial 911 immediately and follow the instruction that emergency personnel provide – they are trained to determine if a child is in danger.

Safe Kids Grand Forks has developed an educational flyer on this topic. The flyer comes with a vinyl cling to use as a reminder to watch for children both inside and out of the vehicle. The flyer can be viewed on-line at or to request hard copies and the cling, contact


Safe Kids Grand Forks Advocates for Child Safety During National Safe Boating Week

Safe Kids Grand Forks urges parents and caregivers to take extra measures to keep kids safe during National Safe Kids Boating Week on May 17-23. It is estimated that half of boating-related drownings could be prevented by the use of life jackets. Whether it’s during vacation or part of an ordinary day, boating can be fun for the entire family – as long as everyone remains safe. We can’t stress it enough: On a boat, everyone should wear a life jacket at all times.

Safe Kids Grand Forks strongly encourages parents and caregivers to look for a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. ‘Water wings’ and other inflatable swimming aids such as inner tubes do not prevent drowning.

Children ages 14 and under should also wear life jackets not only on boats, but near open bodies of water or when participating in water sports. Children under 13 are required to wear life jackets on any recreational vessel in waters under Coast Guard jurisdiction unless they are below deck or within an enclosed cabin. Safe Kids Grand Forks urges parents and caregivers to wear life jackets on boats or other watercraft as well.  Children are much more likely to practice safe habits when they witness similar behavior by parents and caregivers. Your children will pick up and embrace your safety habits.

Safe Kids Grand Forks also reminds parents and caregivers:

+ Always supervise children when they are around any type of water. Designate a “Water Watcher” – a responsible adult who is in charge of watching children while they are in or near water. The Water Watcher should not be distracted by phone calls, text messages, reading or talking to others.

+ Always wear a life jacket. Adults and children should wear life jackets in or around open bodies of water and on boats. Life jackets should fit snugly and keep the child’s head above water. Make sure the life jacket is appropriate for the child’s size and weight, and is properly fastened. Quick Check: Put the life jacket on the child and have the child make a “touchdown” signal with arms raised. If the neck opening of the life jacket comes over the child’s chin or ears, it may be too big or the straps may be too loose.  

+ Learn how to swim and only swim in designated swimming areas. Enroll children in swim lessons taught by a certified instructor. Knowing how to swim does not prevent drowning, but it is an important skill for both children and adults to learn. Teach children that swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in a pool – they need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, ocean undertow and changing weather.

+ Learn CPR and know how to use rescue equipment – these are important skills to know if there is an emergency.

+ Take a boating safety course. Make sure the boat operator has passed a boating safety course approved by the U.S. Coast Guard before your child or family rides in the boat. For more information about safe boat operations and free Vessel Safety Checks, contact the local Coast Guard Auxiliary at

+ Do not let children operate or ride on personal watercrafts such as jet skis. These are intended for adults and require special training.

+ Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Know where and how CO may accumulate around your boat, and install a CO detector to alert you to dangerous levels of exhaust fumes.

+ Avoid alcoholic beverages. Never drink alcoholic beverages while boating — a large portion of boating accidents that occur each year involve alcohol consumption by both boat operators and passengers.

National Safe Boating Week is an annual educational campaign, coordinated by the National Safe Boating Council (, running the week prior to Memorial Day.

For more information about drowning and boating-related injuries, contact Safe Kids Grand Forks at Altru Health System is proud to serve as the lead agency for Safe Kids Grand Forks.

Safe Kids Grand Forks talks about Lawn Mower Safety

As lawn mowing season gets underway in much of the country, safety experts are putting out a warning: Watch out for the kids.

Several cases of children seriously injured in mowing incidents have made the news last year:
* A 2-year-old girl in Florida lost both of her feet when her father backed over her with a riding lawn mower.
* A 4-year-old boy in Tennessee had severe cuts on his arms and legs after a lawn mower ran over him.
* A 2-year-old Maryland boy was in critical condition after a lawn mower he was riding with his grandfather overturned into a creek. 

Such accidents are not unusual: In 2011, 3,780 kids 14 or under were among 83,291 people treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments for lawn mower injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Data from the commission shows that when visits to doctors’ offices and clinics are included, more than 17,000 children and teens are treated for such injuries each year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“These can be life-changing injuries for children, but they are totally preventable,” says Steven Lovejoy, an orthopedic surgeon at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, Nashville. He analyzed lawn mower injuries for a report published in 2012. In the most recent case he treated, a 6-year-old boy lost a foot after he fell off a mower driven by a 10-year-old girl, he says. Often, he says, children are hurt while riding on an adult’s lap, as in the Maryland case. “People remember doing that when they were kids and think it’s OK,” he says.

In many other cases, he says, children are hurt when they run up to adults who are operating mowers and do not see or hear the children coming. That’s why he advises adults to “always know where your children are,” when mowers are in use.

Here are some additional safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical groups:
~ Don’t allow children under age 12 to operate a push mower or those under 16 to drive a riding mower.
~ When children and adolescents are old enough to use mowers, teach them safety steps such as wearing goggles and sturdy shoes.
~ Do not allow children to ride on mowers as passengers.
~ Keep children off the lawn while mowing.
~ Pick up potential flying objects, such as stones and toys, before you start mowing.
~ Do not pull a mower backward or ride it in reverse unless absolutely necessary. If you do mow backwards, carefully look for children behind you. 

This article was reprinted from the Children’s Safety Network and was originally published by USA Today.

For more information about lawn mower safety, contact Safe Kids Grand Forks at Altru Health System is proud to serve as the lead agency for Safe Kids Grand Forks.

Plan Ahead When Traveling by Car or Plane, Regardless of the Distance

To many children, summer means one thing – vacation! Having fun while traveling is important, whether you go to Disneyland or Grandma’s house, but planning ahead to ensure safe travels should be a top priority for all parents.

If your vacation includes a stay at a relative or friend’s, make sure you plan ahead and talk to your host about the possibility of installing age-appropriate safety devices such as cabinet locks or outlet covers to prevent injuries to your kids. This is especially true when visiting people whose children have already grown or those without children, as safety devices may be out-of-date or nonexistent.

When traveling by car, always bring your child’s car seat or booster seat.  Babies should be kept rear-facing for as long as their car seat allows, usually to about age 2 and 30 pounds and a forward-facing car seat can protect older toddlers up to 40 pounds or more depending on the weight limit for the harness. Safe Kids coalitions around the country hold child safety seat check-up events where certified child passenger technicians teach parents about proper installation and car seat safety. Visit to find the nearest child safety seat check. Every time you get in your car, it is important to make sure all occupants are buckled appropriately and secure all loose items so that they don’t become projectiles in case of a sudden stop or crash.

When traveling by airplane, Safe Kids Grand Forks and the Federal Aviation Administration strongly recommend using a car seat.  Infants and toddlers are safest in an approved car seat with a harness, in case of turbulence. A child who rides in a car seat on the ground should ride in that car seat on a plane. While most car seats can fit on standard airplane seats, make sure your child’s car seat is labeled ‘certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.’

Children who have outgrown car seats should sit directly on the airplane seat and, like all passengers, keep the lap belt buckled across their thighs or hips. Booster seats cannot be used on airplanes, because they require shoulder belts and airplane seats have only lap belts.

Planning ahead also involves packing appropriate gear for your children.  If they will be biking, riding a scooter, rollerblading, skateboarding, etc, make sure to pack a helmet that is appropriate for the activity and fits them properly. If you have a baby and the trip involves staying overnight, bring your own folding playpen if possible, rather than relying on borrowed cribs. In several past surveys, Safe Kids Worldwide found some hotel-issued cribs to be defective, damaged or even recalled from the market.

If you must use a hotel’s crib inspect it carefully for broken or missing parts and look up the model on to make sure it isn’t subject to any safety notices.

For more information about child passenger safety on airplanes, visit the “Flying with Children” page at For information about crib safety, visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission at 800-638-2772 or For information about car seats and child passenger safety in general, contact Safe Kids Grand Forks at Altru Health System is proud to serve as the lead agency for Safe Kids Grand Forks.

Procedures for Emergency Care from Safe Kids Grand Forks

Safe Kids Grand Forks offers these tips for Emergency Care:

Your first step in providing emergency care is calling 9-1-1.

Be prepared to give information to the dispatcher, such as:
» Address of the emergency  » Telephone number  » Description of the problem
» Number of people injured  » Conditions of victims  » Care being provided
Do not hang up. Stay on the line with the dispatcher.

Once an emergency has been recognized, be calm and follow these steps:
Check: The scene for safety and the victim for consciousness
Call: 9-1-1
Care: For life-threatening conditions
Ensure: Your own safety before assisting others

Poisoning & Allergic Reaction


» Call Poison Control 1-800-222-1222
» Follow poison control directions  » Do not induce vomiting unless directed to do so
» Monitor airway and breathing  » Keep the victim comfortable

Allergic Reaction:

» If difficulty breathing, call 9-1-1
» Ask the victim if he/she carries medication, if so, assist in administration
» Monitor airway and breathing  » Keep the victim resting quietly

Bone & Joint Injury


» Minimize movement!
» Place your hands on both sides of the victim’s head
» Tell the victim to respond verbally to questions and avoid nodding/shaking head
» Call 9-1-1
» Have the victim remain in the position found
» Maintain an open airway and continue to check for breathing
» Do not remove headgear


» Support the injured area above and below the injury site
» Do not move the injured part
» Splint an injury only if the victim must be moved
» Splint an injured limb in the position you find it


Stop: The burning by removing the victim from the heat source
Cool: The burn by flushing with large amounts of cool water for a minimum of 10 minutes (This will provide some comfort to the area)
Cover: The area with a sterile dressing
» Do not break blisters  » Do not apply ointments or creams
» Flush chemical burns for a minimum of 15 minutes

Call 9-1-1 for:
» Burns that cause breathing difficulty or signs of burns around the mouth/nose
» Burns covering more than one body part  » Burns on the head, neck, hands, feet or genitals
» Burns on a child or elderly person  » Burns on victims with medical conditions
» Burns resulting from chemicals, explosions or electricity


» Cover the wound with a dressing and apply direct pressure
» Do not remove the dressing. If it soaks through, add more on top
» Elevate the injured area above the level of the heart if you do not suspect broken bones
» Cover snugly with a bandage
» If bleeding does not stop, call 9-1-1 and apply more direct pressure

For more information, contact Safe Kids Grand Forks at Altru Health System is proud to serve as the lead agency for Safe Kids Grand Forks.


Protecting Yourself Year-Round; Why Spring Sports Safety is a Must!

As winter turns into spring and temperatures increase, so does the amount of time that children spend outdoors playing spring sports.  This means that the number of injuries to children can also increase.

Each year, more than 30 million children participate in sports in the United States and more than 3.5 million children ages 14 and under are treated for sports injuries. While collision and contact sports are associated with higher rates of injury, injuries from individual sports tend to be more severe.

In team sports, most injuries – 62 percent – occur during practices, not games. The most common types of sport-related injuries in children are sprains (mostly ankle), muscle strains, bone or growth plate injuries, repetitive motion injuries and heat-related illness.

When we think of sports injuries, we tend to think of dramatic tackles or falls – such as the plays you often see on highlight reels, but young athletes are also at risk of injuries. If your coach recommends certain types of warmups, it’s not just to make you a better athlete — it will help keep you from getting hurt.

Safe Kids Grand Forks recommends these precautions for all children playing or practicing any individual or team sport:

  • Before signing up for a sport, get a general physical exam.
  • Always wear appropriate protective gear for the activity — for practice as well as games — and make sure it’s the right size and properly adjusted.
  • Always do your warm-ups and cool-downs.  If it’s important before and after a game, it’s important before and after practice too.
  • Make sure responsible adults know and enforce the safety rules of the sport, are present to provide supervision, and are trained in first aid and CPR.
  • Never “play through” an injury. Get immediate help from a coach or trainer and be sure to mention everything that hurts or aches.  All coaches should have a plan for dealing with emergencies.
  • If you’re playing outside, wear sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher.
  • Follow the rules. In most sports, the rules are based not only on sportsmanship, but safety.

Last but not least: Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water or electrolyte sports drinks before and during the activity, and rest frequently during hot weather. A child can lose up to a quart of sweat during two hours of exercise, and kids get overheated more quickly than adults and cannot cool down as easily.

 For more information about sports safety, contact Safe Kids Grand Forks at Altru Health System is proud to serve as the lead agency for Safe Kids Grand Forks.

Protect Against Home Hazards – Store Poisonous Goods Safely

It is natural for children to explore their surroundings – Safe Kids Grand Forks reminds parents to make sure they store hazardous materials – such as cleaning products or medication – out of their children’s reach.

Each year, unintentional poisoning is the cause of death for approximately 100 children and poison control centers in the United States receive 1.2 million calls as a result of accidental poisoning of children. Nearly 90 percent of these toxic exposures occur in the home, and over 50% involve non-pharmaceutical products such as cosmetics, cleansers, personal care products, plants, pesticides, art supplies, alcohol and toys.

It doesn’t take much to make a small child sick. Almost half of poison exposures for children under the age of 5 are caused by medicine. Children have faster metabolisms than adults and anything they ingest will be absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly.

Safe Kids Grand Forks reminds parents to learn the toll-free poison control center number: 1-800-222-1222. Keep it near every phone in your home and program it into your cell phone. This number connects you to a poison control center from anywhere in the United States.

If a child is choking, having trouble breathing or having a seizure, call 911 instead. Follow the 911 operator’s instructions. Do not induce vomiting or give the child any fluid or medication unless directed.


Safe Kids Grand Forks offers these additional tips:

  • Lock up potential poisons out of sight and reach of kids. This includes makeup, medicine, plants, cleaning products, pesticides, art supplies, and beer, wine and liquor.
  • Never leave kids alone with an open container of something you wouldn’t want them to ingest. A child can be poisoned in a matter of seconds.
  • Don’t refer to medicine or vitamins as candy and don’t involve children as helpers with your medication.
  • Choose medicines and products that have child-resistant caps. When you are giving medicine to your children, follow dosage directions carefully.
  • Keep products in their original containers. Read labels to learn if a product is poisonous and for first aid information.
  • If your home was built before 1978, test for lead-based paint and get your child tested for lead exposure. Children inhale the dust of lead-based paint and can build up enough lead in their blood to affect intelligence, growth and development.
  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm outside every sleeping area and on every level of your home. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas that builds up around fuel-burning appliances and cars in garages. It can make a child seriously ill in concentrations that would barely affect an adult.
  • Know which plants in and around your home can be poisonous.
  • Discuss these precautions with grandparents and caregivers. They may have medications that can be very dangerous to children and their homes might not be as well childproofed as yours.

For more information about poison prevention, contact Safe Kids Grand Forks at Altru Health System is proud to serve as the lead agency for Safe Kids Grand Forks.