Going Head Over Heels from the Shopping Cart

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

The shopping cart was getting a little full and the three year old was getting antsy. He stood up and started to climb over the side of the cart. By the time his mother glanced up from her smartphone, it was too late. The little boy was already starting to fall from the cart.

The fall was followed by a sickening thud when his head hit the concrete floor of the store. The boy laid on the floor in silence for a few seconds before he started crying. His mother quickly rushed over to pick him up and comfort him.

The boy did not seem to be himself the rest of the day. He became cranky and irritable and seemed to be randomly running into things in the house. The mother later went to the doctor and discovered her son had a concussion.

The little boy’s situation is all too common of an experience for many children. Every 22 minutes, children are admitted to an emergency room for an injury related to shopping carts. Children get injured from shopping carts due to falling from the cart, having the cart tip-over, being run over by the cart, and getting a body part trapped in the cart. Most of the children injured are under the age of four years old.

When children are injured, a majority are to the head and consist of bumps and other soft tissue injuries. However, the rates of concussions and closed head injuries are increasing. These type of head injuries can have a significant impact on children’s functioning.

Fortunately, these are preventable injuries if parents use safe shopping cart practices. In many ways, shopping carts are much like cars and the same sort of rules should apply when children ride in them.

First, parents need to make sure their children buckle up. There are straps provided in all carts though parents will often overlook them. These straps are no different than seat belts in a car and need to be used to make sure children don’t stand up or try to get out of the cart. Children should also have their legs placed through the cart’s leg openings when being seated.

Second, children need to remain seated while in the cart. Young children have a relatively poor sense of balance and it can be easy for them to fall out when they stand up. This rule also applies to older children who like to hop onto the front of a cart while it is being pushed. It is all too easy for them to lose their grip and get injured as the cart runs into them or they hit their head on the floor.

Third, children need to keep their hands and feet inside the cart at all times. Trying to grab items while the cart is being pushed is a sure way to get injured.

Fourth, parents should try to use carts that let young children be low to the ground. Many stores have carts where young children sit in front of the cart in a seat that resembles a car. This will help to avoid the danger of the cart tipping over.

Fifth, parents need to make sure carts are driven responsibly. This means not letting older brothers and sisters push the cart while young ones are riding. Inevitably just pushing the cart will get boring and the older sibling will want to go faster which makes it more likely something bad will happen.

As the holiday season is upon us, many families will be out shopping and loading up carts with presents and food. Make sure to take some precautions when loading young children into the carts so everyone can have a happy holiday season and avoid having to visit the emergency room.

This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Friday on November 27, 2015

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