Category Archives: Injury Prevention

Facts on frostbite

Limit the amount of time spent outdoors during cold temperatures. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

By Erin Fritz, CNP

Minnesota winters offer many outdoor activities. While we can appreciate the fun of sledding, the thrill of skiing or the labor-intensive task of shoveling, these activities aren’t without risk. Specifically, prolonged exposure to the cold puts our skin at risk for frostbite, or — a lesser version — frostnip.

What is frostbite?

Frostbite is the damage to a body part caused by cold. While many instances are mild, frostbite can be quite severe. Typically the cold exposure occurs over minutes or hours, but frostbite can be instantaneous if exposed to cold metal. Frostbite is most common on the ears, nose, cheeks, chin, fingers, and toes.

What should I watch for?

It’s important to recognize the signs of frostbite as quickly as possible. Skin will feel cold, and may even be numb or tingling; it may have a gray or white appearance. Due to the numbness, the affected body part may feel clumsy or be difficult to move. Slightly worse symptoms may include blisters. Severe frostbite will have areas of black skin.

Q4_mighty_buttonWhat to do if I am concerned?

Once symptoms of frostbite or frostnip are identified, the affected area needs to be rapidly re-warmed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the water used to re-warm the skin should be warm, but not hot. Avoid rubbing the area as this could make the pain and tissue damage worse. Pain is commonly a factor with frostbite, and can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications or by health care professionals.

How can frostbite be prevented?

Most importantly, frostbite easily can be prevented. Limit the amount of time spent outdoors during cold temperatures. Dress in layers, and cover all areas of uncovered skin with a hat, mittens, face mask and goggles. Warm boots are important. And finally, stay dry. If clothing does get wet, seek shelter and remove wet clothes immediately.

Springtime will bring warmer temperatures. But until then, dress warmly, stay dry and prevent frostbite.

Volunteers needed for Minnesota State Fair

Want a free ticket to the Minnesota State Fair?

We’re looking for fun volunteers to help staff our Making Safe Simple booth. We have four interactive stations: helmet safety, car safety, household safety and water safety. All volunteers receive free entry to the fair and a T-shirt.

There still are several volunteer spots available — Labor Day weekend is our greatest need for champion volunteers:

Subscribe to MightySaturday, Aug. 30

  • 5-8:30 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 31

  • 2-5:30 p.m.
  • 5-8:30 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 1

  • 2-5:30 p.m.
  • 5-8:30 p.m.

Encourage your family and friends to volunteer, too!  Please note that volunteers must be 18 years or older. To sign up, please contact Ana Nugent at [email protected]. We hope to see you at the fair!

Five things to know about heat exhaustion

With sun and humidity a factor during summer in Minnesota, we thought it was a good time to talk about ways to keep kids safe in the heat. In addition to our quick tips for protecting your kids from dehydration, here are tips on avoiding heat exhaustion. We believe in Making Safe Simple, so take a few moments to review these tips!

  1. subscribe_blogChildren adjust more slowly than adults do to changes in environmental heat. They also produce more heat with activity than adults and sweat less. Sweating is one of the body’s normal cooling mechanisms. Children often don’t think to rest when having fun and may not drink enough fluids when playing or exercising.
  2. Heat exhaustion results from a loss of water and salt in the body due to excessive sweating. It occurs when the body is unable to cool itself properly and, if left untreated, can progress to heat stroke.
  3. Signs of heat exhaustion in children are: profuse sweating, pale skin that’s cool and damp to the touch, rapid and shallow breathing, headache, nausea, normal or below-normal body temperature, vomiting or diarrhea, dizziness, weakness or fainting, and muscle cramps.
  4. If your child is experiencing heat exhaustion, move him or her to a cool place right away to rest. You should remove extra clothing and apply cool cloths (towels with cold water) and fan the child’s skin. Give him or her cool sports drinks containing salt and sugar such as Gatorade (if the child doesn’t feel nauseated).
  5. Call your doctor or go to the emergency department if their condition hasn’t improved or your child is unable to take fluids within an hour.

At Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, we care for more pediatric emergency and trauma patients than any other health care system in our region, seeing about 90,000 kids each year between our St. Paul and Minneapolis hospitals. Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis is the area’s only Level I pediatric trauma center in a hospital dedicated to only kids, which means we offer the highest level of care to critically injured kids. From the seriously sick to the critically injured, we’re ready for anything.

Five Question Friday: Dex Tuttle

We love kids here at Children’s, but we’d rather see them safe at home. Dex Tuttle, our injury prevention program coordinator, tells us more about his role and gives some tips on how to prevent common household injuries in this week’s Five Question Friday.

Dex Tuttle has been the injury prevention program coordinator at Children's since August 2013.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I started in August of 2013.

Describe your role.

As injury prevention program coordinator, my job is to keep kids out of the emergency room. I plan events and prepare resources in partnership with hospital and community organizations to educate children and families about common types of injury and give them tips on what they can do to stay safe.

What do you love most about your job?

On any given day, I can be in a workshop creating a new display or activity, out in the metro area talking to community members, or at my desk planning, creating and organizing for the future. I love the flexibility and unpredictability of the job, but the most rewarding part of my work is when people who stop by and chat with me have that “a-ha” moment: when I know that the message sunk in and changed behavior. In addition, as a father of an 18-month-old, injury prevention is always on my mind in a very real way. It is great making connections with families where the conversation starts with the commonality of caring for a curious and mobile child and progresses to sharing some advice that can help them keep their own kids safe.

We’re anxiously waiting for warmer weather so we can get outside. What are some simple tips that you give parents to keep their kids safe around their neighborhoods?

A tricky part of parenting is encouraging your kids to learn through exploration and curiosity while maintaining safe behaviors. The tip sheet on this topic is about three miles long, but here is some general advice:

  • If they’re on wheels, make sure they wear a proper-fitting helmet and pads.
  • The same goes for any activity or sport; make sure their equipment is right for their size.
  • Role-play emergency scenarios as a family – severe weather, stranger danger, fire escape, etc.
  • When traveling by vehicle, ensure your child’s car seat or seat belt fits right and is installed/worn properly. ALWAYS wear a seat belt (role model good behavior) and keep kids in a proper car seat or booster until they’re 4-foot-9 or taller to ensure their seat belt fits right.
  • STAY HYDRATED. With the winter we’ve had, it’s hard to think about the weather being warm enough to be dangerous, but developing good habits around drinking plenty of water now will help create safe behavior in the future. Be sure kids understand the importance of sunscreen, too.

For more tips, visit Children’s Making Safe Simple page, but the best advice I can give as a father and educator is to involve your kids in decisions and planning for safety. Encouraging them to provide their input and incorporating their suggestions into your plan and actions helps solidify safe behavior into the future.

What’s your favorite meal?

PIZZA. If my wife would let me, I could eat pizza for every meal, every day … with a few regular breaks for hot wings, anyway.

Signs and symptoms of a concussion

(iStock photo / Getty Images)

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. As part of that, we’re sharing some concussion safety tips.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a blow to the head or body. Symptoms can show up right after the injury or may not be noticed until hours or days later.

Signs and symptoms to watch for:

  • Headache or dizziness
  • Drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Focus or concentration problems
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Balance or coordination problems
  • Disorientation or mental confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Slowed thinking or speech
  • Blank or vacant look
  • Loss of consciousness
What to do if your child displays concussion symptoms:
  • Immediately remove your child from activity
  • Seek medical attention
  • Tell your child’s coach or teacher
Children’s Concussion Clinic

8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday

Children’s Specialty Center (ground floor)
2530 Chicago Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Garden View (third floor)
347 N. Smith Ave., Suite 300
St. Paul, MN 55102

Four simple steps to prevent food poisoning

Summer means picnics, buffets, barbecues and outdoor parties – and an increased risk of food poisoning. Getting sick from improperly prepared or stored food is more common and more serious than you might realize. In the United States, food poisoning sends more than 100,000 people to the hospital each year, and it can have long-term health consequences. Common symptoms include abdominal cramps, nausea, fever, joint/back aches and fatigue.

It is important to make sure that food served at picnics, buffets, barbeques and parties is safe. Four simple steps can help to protect you and your family and friends from food poisoning:

Clean it:

  • Wash hands with soap and water before preparing or eating food.
  • Wash kitchen surfaces, cutting boards and utensils with soap and hot water.
  • Wash all raw fruits and vegetables.

Separate it:

  • Don’t allow juices from meat, seafood, poultry or eggs to drip on other foods.
  • Use a separate cutting board and knife for raw meats, seafood and poultry.
  • Use different dishes for raw foods and cooked foods.
  • To avoid cross-contamination, don’t add more food to a dish or platter that already has food on it.
  • Always serve food on clean dishes.

Cook it:

  • Cook foods at a high enough temperature to kill bacteria. Use a food thermometer to be sure.
  • Cook meat and poultry until the juices run clear.
  • Don’t eat raw eggs or food items made with raw eggs, such as homemade mayonnaise, cookie dough, etc.

Chill it:

  • Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Cold foods should be kept at 40° F or colder and hot foods should be kept at 140° or hotter. Use ice, ice packs, and coolers or chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays to keep foods at the correct temperature.
  • Refrigerate perishable foods quickly.
  • Don’t leave foods and leftovers at room temperature longer than two hours.

Additional resources:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Minnesota Department of Health Food Safety Center

The silent killer: How a near drowning impacted two families

Cooper Whitfield

No one heard 4-year-old Cooper struggle, splash, or cry for help. That’s because he didn’t.

A year ago last June, Cooper’s mom, Christie Whitfield, took Cooper and his two siblings, Molly and Kendall who were 7 and 1 at the time, to a private neighborhood pool. What began as a joy-filled, sun-soaked afternoon nearly ended in tragedy.

The hot weather drew dozens to the pool. The chairs near the shallow end of the pool were taken, so Whitfield found a seat near the deep end where she could apply sunscreen on Kendall.

Meanwhile, her oldest, Molly, jumped into the pool with a family friend. Whitfield put goggles on her son and told Cooper, who didn’t know how to swim but could touch the 3-foot section of the pool, to wait for her by the stairs of the shallow end until she could join him.

“Buddy, wait for me by the steps,” she said.

Moments later, Whitfield turned around. Cooper was nowhere to be found.

“Where’s Cooper?” she shouted.

That’s when she saw him at the bottom of the pool. Maternal instincts kicking in, she jumped into the water and screamed to others to call 911. She pulled Cooper, blue and unconscious, out of the pool.

The following moments zoomed by in a blur.

“I just kept thinking, ‘Somebody please save my baby,’” she said. “It was an out-of-body experience, but I still kept thinking and believing he was going to be okay and that this wasn’t going to be the end.”

Whitfield was trained and had been certified in CPR. But in those moments, she couldn’t comprehend what to do, she said.

Leah Mickschl and Cooper Whitfield

Leah Mickschl did.

Mickschl, a mom of two and an RN at Midwest Children’s Resource Center, started performing CPR on Cooper. It took three rounds before he regained consciousness, she said.

“I think about it all the time,” Mickschl said.

Surveillance later showed that Cooper had jumped into the water and tried to reach a raft but missed it. He didn’t splash or gasp. Silently, he fell to the bottom of the pool. A pool that was full of adults and children who thought Cooper was just swimming underwater.

Within minutes of the rescue, police and emergency responders arrived. Mickschl stayed behind with Whitfield’s other two children so she could accompany him in an ambulance to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where he was treated in the Emergency Department. While he was still in shock and remained quiet, he was breathing normally.

Cooper remained at Children’s overnight for observation so physicians could make sure there was no brain or lung damage. Today, he’s a healthy, happy 5-year-old who has returned to the water.

In a situation like a near drowning, every second counts. Police told Whitfield had it not been for Mickschl’s quick intervention, Cooper may have suffered brain damage.

“Leah is an absolute hero,” Whitfield said. “I can’t say enough about her and how calmly and quickly she handled the situation.”

Mickschl, who grew up around water, said the event has made her more aware of her surroundings when she is by water and when her two kids, 8 and 10, are in water.

She added that what happened to Whitfield could happen to anyone.

“It was an awful day that has changed my life – I look at everything differently now,” Whitfield said. “I have an appreciation for so much. Life is so precious and can change in the blink of an eye.”

The Whitfield Family

Whitfield and Mickschl share their tips for parents and caregivers:

  • Inches count. While Cooper was able to touch the bottom of the pool in the 3-foot section, he nearly drowned where the depth was only 3-and-a-half feet.
  • Always be aware and always be present. If you have to step away, ask someone to watch your child.
  • Register your child for swimming lessons.
  • Get CPR certified.
  • Always use a lifejacket. Cooper typically wore one at the pool, but it got left behind.
  • Drowning is a leading cause of death in kids ages 1 to 4. Boys are at a higher risk for drowning.
  • Drowning is silent.

Find more water safety tips here.

Read our original story about the rescue and the honor Mickschl received for her efforts.

Join Christie, Leah and our trauma team when they hand out life jackets at local parks on Wednesday, July 10.

Five Question Friday: Mitch Peterka


Your job title is injury prevention program coordinator, so what is a typical day like for you at Children’s? On any given day I can be found doing one of two things: planning for an upcoming event or hanging out in the community spreading safety. If I am planning that means I am working with event organizers or other people here at Children’s to make sure we put on a fun, yet informative, time. If I am at an event that means I am out talking with kids and their parents about different ways to be safe, like wearing bike helmets, using the right car seat and taking the right precautions around the home.

Mitch Peterka

This summer, you’re involved in “Making safe simple: 100 ways in 100 days.” What is that about? Even though Children’s is now a level I pediatric trauma center, we don’t want kids and families to have to meet our Emergency Department staff and trauma team. That is why we are going out into the community all summer long to let kids and families know how they can keep from getting injured. We are visiting parks, swimming beaches and our own neighborhood to give simple advice in all different ways.

What drew you to Children’s? Easy: The opportunity to work with the most fun population in the world (kids) at the greatest place around (Children’s).

Do you have a favorite memory from working at Children’s? Being able to watch Children’s – Minneapolis become a level I trauma center. I started working as an EMT in the Minneapolis Emergency Department almost five and a half years ago and now I work with the Trauma Services, so I am lucky to have had a front row seat to the making of this big achievement.

How do you spend your time outside of Children’s? I love traveling, being outdoors and finding adventure. Whether it is hiking Wild River State Park, skiing in Summit County, Colo., or biking the 30 days of April around Minneapolis, if it is outside I enjoy it.

Preventing and treating dog bites

We love our four-legged friends. But, dog bites can and do happen.

Each year, about 4 million Americans are bitten by dogs, and nearly 800,000 need medical attention, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. The most common victims are children.

At Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, we tend to see an uptick in the number of dog bite cases beginning in May through September. During those months in 2012, we treated 87 kids for dog bites. Don’t let your child be a statistic this summer.

“It’s all about prevention,” said Dr. Michelle London, an Emergency Department physician.

There are some measures you can take to reduce the possibility of your child being bitten. Teach your children not to approach a strange dog, never go face to face with a dog or go near a dog when it’s eating, London said.

Dog bites can occur over food, added Erin Dobie, a certified nurse practitioner who also works in Children’s Emergency Department. Even if the dog is eating and a child drops a toy near the dish and bends down to pick it up, the dog could snap thinking that the child is going for the food. Dogs can also be provoked by kids pulling on tails or climbing on them.

If your child is bitten, here’s what to expect:

  1. Get the child away from the dog as quickly as possible.
  2. Be aware of the owner or the identity of the dog. While it shouldn’t be your top priority, it will help you determine later whether the dog is vaccinated.
  3. Control bleeding and put pressure on the wound.
  4. If skin isn’t broken, washing the wound is usually sufficient.
  5. If it appears there may be a laceration, take your child to the Emergency Department.
  6. In general, smaller puncture wounds are not sutured because of high risk of infection, but all dog bites need to be cleaned out well and prophylactic antibiotic treatment given to prevent infection whether or not they are sutured.
  7. If a dog can be observed for 10 days after a bite (when it is not to the head, face or neck) and is well, then rabies vaccinations aren’t recommended. However, parents still have the option at any time to start rabies vaccinations.
This post also appeared in the Star Tribune kids’ health section.