By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly

Most parents don’t think of the dangers their child may face from something as ordinary as a shopping cart. However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 24,000 children in the United States were treated in emergency rooms for shopping cart-related injuries. Some of these injuries were severe and even resulted in death.

The most common shopping cart injuries involve falls, carts tipping over, falling off a cart while riding on the outside, becoming trapped in a cart and being hit or run over by a cart. More than 74 percent of shopping cart-related injuries affect the head or neck. Specific injuries include fractures, bumps and cuts. In some cases, the shopping carts are not equipped with safety restraints or the safety belts are broken, but many of these injuries occur when children are left unattended and fall or slip from the carts because they are not properly restrained.

The AAP recommends the following to parents, instead of putting children in shopping carts:

Have another adult come with you while shopping, so that someone is watching the child at all times.
Put children in strollers instead of shopping carts.
Ask older children to walk instead of sit in the cart and praise them for behaving and staying near.
Leave children at home with another adult.

Some of these suggestions are not practical because many families have no choice but to take their children to the grocery store and seat them in the cart. Parents should make sure that if they put their child in the grocery cart seat, she is properly secured with a safety harness. Parents and caregivers should not:

· Leave their child alone while in a shopping cart, even for a moment.
· Move out of arms’ reach of the cart.
· Allow their child to stand in a cart.
· Place an infant in his carrier on top of a shopping cart, even if the carrier says that it will fit on a cart.
· Allow their child to ride in the basket of a shopping cart.
· Allow their child to hold on and ride on the outside of the cart.
· Allow an older child to climb on the cart or push a cart that has another child in the seat.
· Park the cart near enough to displays or shelves that their child can reach.

Look for stores that have taken steps to keep children safe – for example, those with carts designed specifically for children, such as those that have seats where children ride closer to the ground; those that have carts with child restraints in each seating location on the cart and those that offer to help you bring purchases to your car so that you can safely take your child through the parking lot rather than having to use the cart.
Dr. Sally Robinson is a pediatrician in the division of children’s special services at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. She teaches medical students about caring for children with chronic medical conditions. Dr. Keith Bly is a hospitalist and assistant professor of pediatrics at UTMB.

The Your Health column is written by health and medical experts at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The column focuses on topical health issues that we believe are of interest to your readers. It is e-mailed every Tuesday. If you have any questions about the column, or would like to suggest topics, please contact John Koloen, media relations specialist, at (409) 772-8790 or email jskoloen@utmb.edu.