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Shopping cart safety for children

Every year in the United States, about 22,000 children under the age of 6 land in hospital emergency rooms after a painful encounter with a shopping cart, and 60 percent of those accidents involve injuries to the head.

A national campaign has emerged championed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Safe Kids Campaign, a private group, to encourage parents to use safety belts in shopping carts.

Both became alarmed as they watched shopping-cart injuries balloon from 16,900 in 1985 to 22,200 in 1996. That included children who fell from carts or were crushed by carts.

"These are not your scrapes and bruises," says Nychelle Fleming, spokeswoman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, "so that right there should send a message out to parents."

Because young children have heads disproportionately large compared to the rest of their body, they're more likely to topple, and a fall of 2 to 3 feet for a child can produce a serious head injury, a concussion or fracture, for instance.

Here are tips from the National Safe Kids Campaign on preventing shopping-cart injuries to children:

+ Always use safety belts to prevent children from falling or climbing out of shopping carts.

+ Consider bringing your own harness or safety belt with you when shopping. You can't assume that all stores will equip carts with belts.

+ Always stay close to the cart.

+ Do not let your child stand in the cart.

+ Never let a child push or steer the cart.