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Don't be a victim

The routine task of mowing the lawn _ perhaps the most practiced rite of summer _ can be hazardous, especially to children, if certain precautions aren't taken. Dr. William C. Warner, pediatric orthopedist with The Campbell Clinic in Memphis, Tenn., says he traditionally sees an increase in serious trauma injury to children during the summer months directly related to lawn mower accidents.

"I'd like to see a lot less of these patients," he says.

Lawn mower injuries can be devastating. Often young victims are scarred for life, some suffering amputation.

"Parents almost always feel tremendous guilt, especially when disfigurement and amputations are involved," he says. "These are very sad and tragic accidents, and often they can be prevented if adults outline rules and procedures and keep reminding kids of them."

U.S. Product Safety Commission data shows that lawn mowers send more than 60,000 Americans to emergency rooms each year. The majority of these victims are children under age 15. Many cases involve small children falling off or running in the path of riding mowers, teens falling while mowing hills or slopes and children injured by flying objects or by unattended mowers.

The major injuries involve limbs, hands, arms or feet caught in mower blades.

Also common are injuries to the head, eyes and other body parts caused by projectiles _ rocks, sticks, toys _ thrown out by spinning mower blades. These objects can become deadly missiles, propelled at speeds up to 200 mph, causing serious injury to bones, skin, muscles and nerves.

Quick action on your part in the event of an injury can perhaps save life or limb.

"The nature of lawn mower injuries makes them very dirty and bloody. First, clean the wound with water and apply direct pressures to try and stop the bleeding. Wrap the wound with a clean bandage and head for the emergency room. If there is profuse bleeding that won't stop, call an ambulance," Warner said.

In cases of amputation, place the part in a plastic bag, put it on ice send it with the victim to the hospital. If the amputation was a clean cut, it possibly can be reattached.