It’s summertime, the grass is green, and the lawn mowers are motoring! The smell of freshly cut grass is a summer staple, and it’s not uncommon to see cute photos of children riding with parents on lawn mowers all season long. But unfortunately, most people don’t realize the risks and dangers involved with mowing the lawn, particularly for our younger children. Having an understanding of these threats is key to preventing lawn mower injuries.
Nationally, it is estimated that 9,500 children end up in the emergency department with lawn mower-related injuries. These injuries range from scrapes or large wounds to loss of extremities or even death. Almost 10% of these children require hospitalization, and power mowers are responsible for a majority of childhood amputations.
The good news is that preventing most of these lawn mower injuries is possible by following safety guidelines.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following:
Before Mowing the Lawn
- Read the instructor’s manual and follow all directions on the mower.
- Keep children out of the yard while mowing the lawn. Lawn mowers can look like fun toys to children, and they often want to play on them. Children should be kept inside or a safe distance away from the area that you plan to mow.
- Clear the area of debris, which can be thrown by lawn mower blades and potentially cause injuries. Make sure rocks, branches, sticks, toys, and other debris is cleared from the yard prior to mowing.
- Make sure weather conditions are appropriate. Never mow during thunderstorms or when it is dark out and never mow wet grass.
- Make sure your lawn mower is in good condition and that all appropriate protective guards and shields are correctly placed.
While Mowing the Lawn
- NEVER allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers or garden trackers.
- Always wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes, hearing protection, and eye protection. Avoid baggy, loose-fitting clothes that can get caught in the mower.
- Use extra caution when mowing a slope or near trees or when mowing tall grass where objects can be hidden.
- Do not mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary. Always check behind you before reversing.
- Always remain aware of your children and do not allow them near the area where you are working. They should always remain indoors or a safe distance away.
- Always allow the engine to cool completely before refueling.
- Weed whackers and edgers can also throw objects, so always use the protective shields appropriate for the tools and always wear eye shields while operating them.
When Can My Children Help?
- Children must be at least 12 years of age to operate a push mower.
- Children must be at least 16 years of age to operate a ride-on mower.
- Always model good behavior and practice appropriate safety guidelines, so your children follow!
Remember, while it may look cute to have your little ones riding on the mowers, it is not worth risking the potential injuries. So let’s keep our children safe this summer!
In case of a medical emergency with a child with a lawn mower-related injury, determine where the nearest accredited Level I pediatric trauma center is located. St. Louis Children’s Hospital has six pediatric ER locations across the St. Louis and southern Illinois region, including St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital at Memorial Hospital Belleville, Children’s Hospital at Memorial Hospital Shiloh, Children’s Hospital at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, Children’s Hospital at Northwest HealthCare and Children’s Hospital at Progress West Hospital.
All caregivers should know your preference for which hospital a child should be taken to in case of an emergency. Our Washington University Children’s After Hours locations provide convenient medical care for your child’s illnesses and injuries as a faster alternative to ERs when your pediatrician’s office is closed, for the same copay you’d pay at the pediatrician’s office.