Young children and power mowers are a risky mix


June 28, 1994|By Modena Wilson, M.D. and Alain Joffe, M.D. | Modena Wilson, M.D. and Alain Joffe, M.D.,Special to The Sun

Q: Our daughter can hardly wait to begin to mow the lawn. When will it be safe for her to do so?

A: You haven't given us your daughter's age, but if she is eager to mow the lawn, she is almost certainly not old enough to do so!

Power lawn mowers must be approached with respect. More than 60,000 people are treated for lawn mower injuries every year. Many are children. Many of the injuries are quite severe. We particularly worry about amputations. A power mower cuts through fairly thick branches with ease. The small bones of a hand or foot are no problem for it.

Riding mowers are of particular concern. We have seen a number of tragic injuries to small children who were overrun after falling from or while playing near a riding mower. If you have a riding mower, do not let a child ride, operate it or ride on it with you. Small children should stay in the house while you use it. The noise of the mower may prevent your hearing them when they are in danger.

Back to your daughter and what we presume is a walk-behind or push power mower: It is hard to give a particular age when all children can use all mowers. Heavier mowers require more strength to operate. Mowing hills is particularly dangerous. Some mowers have more safety devices than others.

Of course, children vary at least as much as lawn mowers do. A strong and responsible child of 12 might be allowed to mow -- with a mower loaded with safety features and constant adult supervision -- a small, flat property. For any situation more challenging, we suggest deferring till your daughter is a teen-ager. Of course, by then she will probably not want to mow! Many adolescents consider it dreary duty.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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