Every day in the U.S., about 20 children are injured by firearms seriously enough to require hospitalization, and more than 6 percent of those who are admitted die from their injuries, according to a study, “Hospitalizations Due to Firearm Injuries in Children and Adolescents,” in the February 2014 issue of Pediatrics (published online Jan. 27).
Researchers looked at children and adolescents younger than age 20 at the time of admission to the hospital in 2009. In that year, 7,391 hospitalizations occurred in this age group because of firearm injuries, and 453 of those young patients died while in the hospital. Most of the hospitalizations resulted from assaults (4,559), and the fewest were from suicide attempts (270). However, injuries from suicide attempts most often resulted in death.
The most common types of firearm injuries included:
- Open wounds (52 percent)
- Fractures (50 percent)
- Internal injuries of the thorax, abdomen or pelvis (34 percent)
Traumatic brain injuries occurred most often in children younger than age 5. Children who survive firearm injuries often require extensive follow-up treatment once released from the hospital, including rehabilitation, home health care, hospital readmission from delayed effects of the injury, and mental health or social services.
Study authors conclude the data highlight the toll of gun related injuries that extends beyond high-profile cases, and that pediatricians and other health care providers can play an important role in preventing these injuries through counseling about firearm safety, including safe storage.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the safest home for a child is a home without guns, and if there is a gun in the home, it must be stored unloaded and locked, with the ammunition locked separately.