Wheels & Wrecks

Teaching a child to ride a bike is an unforgettable experience. There’s the joy of watching them take off on their own and the pride on their faces when they realize that they really can do it. But there’s also the backbreaking leaning over and running at top speed behind the bike, trying to keep them from falling as they learn to balance and ride. And, of course, there’s dealing with the unavoidable scrapes and bruises that go hand-in-hand with learning. Those scrapes and bruises don’t disappear once the learning process is over. As your bike rider gains confidence, injuries occur when they try to jump the curb or speed past a friend. Even careful riders get injured when they encounter an unexpected bump in the sidewalk or are startled by a loud noise. How do you keep your child safe as they hit the bike trails this summer? Follow these bike safety guidelines and learn what to do in case of an accident.

Bike Safety Guidelines

  1. Always wear a helmet when biking, skateboarding or riding a scooter. It’s rare these days to see a child without a helmet, but it still happens, even with the most cautious parents. You might think, “Oh, she’s just going down the block.” Or it might seem too hot to wear a helmet one sweltering summer day. However, bike helmets are the most important bike safety tools you have.
    • Make sure helmets have a CPSC or Snell sticker inside. These indicate that the helmet meets standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
    • Helmets should be well ventilated and adjusted for fit.
  2. Check your child’s bike at least once a year, including the tires, brakes and chains.
  3. Teach and follow your state’s bike safety laws. You can find these laws on your state’s driving safety website, like this one from Illinois.
  4. Follow the rules you expect your child to obey. If they have to wear a helmet, so should you. This is not a “do as I say, not as I do” moment. If they see you ride without a helmet, you can bet their helmet is coming off as soon as you’re out of sight.
  5. Increase rider visibility with clothing and lighting.
    • Fluorescent and retro-reflective clothing increases visibility during the night and day.
    • Front white lights, rear red lights and other lighting help drivers see bicyclists at night.
  6. Consider the age-appropriateness of activities.
    • Children under 5 are not developmentally able to manage a skateboard. Children under 10 should be supervised when skateboarding.
    • Scooter riders should be supervised until age 8.
  7. Never ride skateboards or scooters near traffic. Use skateboard parks.
  8. Never hold on to a moving vehicle while riding a skateboard.
  9. Skateboarders and scooter riders should wear elbow pads and kneepads. Skateboarders should also wear wrist guards.
  10. To learn about bike lanes and other roadway engineering measures that improve safety for bicyclists check out The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center.

Treating Serious Injuries

  • Any head injury requires a trip to the emergency room. Internal bleeds and concussions can be difficult to diagnose. Consult a medical professional. Be sure to keep an eye on the child as internal bleeds can develop 24 hours to 7 days post-trauma and concussions do not show up on scans or MRIs.
  • Spinal cord injuries are less common bicycle injuries but can result from force to the head and neck from biking accidents like being thrown over the handlebars.  If the victim is unable to move or feel a part of their body or if they are complaining of severe neck or back pain, do not let them get up or move in any significant way. Call 911.
  • Fractures are common and treatable but have many degrees of severity.  All possible fractures must be evaluated as quickly as possible.

Treating Minor Injuries

  • Lacerations and Abrasions
    • Carefully remove dirt, sand, splinters or other larger debris with tweezers. Sterilize tweezers with an alcohol prep pad.
    • Clean with soap and water or wound wash.
    • If dirt or other material is lodged so deep in the wound that you cannot get it out, seek medical attention.
    • Depending on the injury, apply medication.
      • For most scrapes and cuts, apply antibiotic ointment and cover with an adhesive bandage or sterile gauze and secure with tape.
      • For road rash burn dressing keeps the wound moist and protected from contamination while allowing the ooze from the sore to evaporate. The wound can heal from the bottom of the scrape as well as from the sides, and the moisture keeps the scab from forming a hard crust that may crack open.
    • Apply fresh adhesive bandages or sterile gauze and tape as needed. Change the covering on the wound daily, or more frequently if it becomes wet or dirty.
    • To reduce the chance of infection and reduce scarring, apply antibiotic cream and change the bandage daily. While this alone doesn’t make the wound heal faster, it may help reduce the chance of infection.
    • If bleeding does not stop or appears deep (you can see fat or muscle), hold pressure over the area with an ABD pad and seek medical attention.
    • Seek medical attention if pain increases or signs of infection develop. Signs of infection include redness, increased swelling, warmth and oozing develop.
    • When in doubt, particularly for lacerations on the face or hands, seek medical attention.
  • Sprains
    • Treatment for ankle, wrist, shoulder, elbow and knee sprains is rest, ice, compression with an elastic bandage and elevation.
    • Over the counter medications can help with pain.
    • Avoid aggravating movements and weight bearing if painful, but moving the joint is a good idea to prevent stiffness.  If the pain and swelling do not improve over the next few days, seek medical attention.
  • Muscle Soreness
    • The trauma to muscles and tissues from a fall and the forceful contractions of muscles during impact can cause some mild muscle breakdown creating soreness.
    • Hydration helps healing. Have your child drink lots of water.
    • Rest and refrain from aggravating activities for a couple of days.
    • If the pain and swelling get worse rather than better, seek medical attention.

Riding bikes, scooters and skateboards are one of the best parts of summer for most kids. Be sure to follow safety guidelines to keep your children safe. And keep your MacGill First Aid Kit handy because no matter how safe we try to be, injuries happen. Enjoy a fun and safe family bike ride today!

Disclaimer:  This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  It is provided for educational purposes only.