Keeping Kids Healthy
By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly  

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, in 2010, 17,000 youths 19 and younger were treated for lawn mower-related injuries.

Many of these injuries occur in older children and teens. Boys with the average age of 11 make up 75 percent of the children injured. However, small children also are at risk of injury.

Lawn mowers have the potential to cause serious injuries. The blades are sharp enough to slice and even amputate limbs, and objects that get caught in the blades fly out with great force.

Though doing yard work together may be a fun family activity, children should not be around when you are mowing.

Some tips to prevent lawn mower-related injuries include:

• Read the owner’s manual of the mower before operating it.

• Remember, a riding lawn mower is not a toy or a vehicle. Children should never play on or ride on a lawn mower, even if it is on a parents’ lap.

• Make sure your child stays a safe distance away from the mower while you are using it.

• Power mowers should come equipped with a control that stops the mower if the handle is released.

• Make sure that all shields are in place on your mower.

• Children younger than 14 should not be allowed on riding mowers and children younger than 12 should not use push mowers.

• Adults and children old enough to mow should wear sturdy nonslip shoes (no sandals or bare feet), pants and protective eyewear while mowing.

• Debris, such as toys and rocks, should be removed from the yard. If run over by a lawn mower, these items can cause serious injuries when they fly from under the mower blades.

• Turn off your mower and wait for the blades to stop spinning before crossing gravel paths or roads or removing the grass catcher.

• Don’t operate your mower in bad weather, mow on wet grass or if there is not enough daylight to see.

• Never pull a mower backward or mow in reverse.

• Mowers should be started and refueled outside, not in a garage or shed. The motor should be turned off and cooled to refuel.

• Blades should be cleaned or adjusted by an adult and the mower should be turned off with the spark plug removed or disconnected. Move the mower from the spot where you refueled to avoid igniting gasoline vapors that may linger in the air.

• Never leave a running mower unattended. If the mower has an electric start, do not leave the key left in the switch.

• Keep a firm grip on the handle of the mower with both hands at all times.

• Store your mower in a safe place where your child cannot get to it such as in a locked shed. If you cannot lock it up, teach your child that it is not a toy and not to be played on or around.

• Teach your child that mower blades are dangerous and can cause serious injury.

• Be aware of where your children are while you are mowing and do not allow them near where you are mowing.

• Earplugs can protect ears from the noise of the motor which can cause hearing loss.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital, and Keith Bly is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the UTMB Pediatric Urgent Care Clinics. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.