New research suggests that around 20 children in the US are hospitalized every day after being injured by firearms, and approximately 6% of these children die from their injuries. This is according to a study published online in the journal Pediatrics.
The research team, led by Dr. John Leventhal of the Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut, analyzed data of children and adolescents under the age of 20 who had been admitted to a hospital in the US during 2009.
From this, the investigators found that 7,391 hospitalizations occurred as a result of firearm injuries, and 453 of these patients died while in hospital.
Almost 400 of these hospitalizations were in children younger than 10 years old.
Assaults were to blame for 4,559 of the hospitalizations. Although suicide attempts accounted for the fewest hospitalizations (270), injuries from these most often resulted in death.
For children younger than 10, three-quarters of hospitalizations were from unintentional or accidental injuries.
The researchers found that 52% of firearm injuries were open wounds, 50% were fractures and 34% were injuries to the thorax, abdomen or pelvis.
Traumatic brain injuries as a result of firearms most commonly occurred in children under the age of 5.
The investigators also found that children who survived firearm injuries often needed comprehensive follow-up treatment once they had been discharged from the hospital.
This included home health care, rehabilitation and assistance from mental health or social services. Many of these children were also readmitted to the hospital because of delayed injury effects.
Commenting on the findings, Dr. Leventhal says:
"These data highlight the toll of gun-related injuries that extends beyond high-profile cases, and those children and adolescents who die before being hospitalized.
Pediatricians and other health care providers can play an important role in preventing these injuries through counseling about firearm safety, including safe storage."
AAP firearm recommendations
Dr. Leventhal points to firearm recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
In 2012, the AAP published an updated policy statement, which suggested the most effective way to prevent child-related firearm injuries is to eliminate guns from homes and communities.
Furthermore, the AAP recommends that if a gun is stored in a house with children, it should be unloaded and locked, and ammunition should be locked separately.
Last year, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that child gunshot traumas cost more than other childhood injuries, while another study found that around 20% of suicidal adolescents have access to guns at home.