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Vital Signs: Injury is the #1 Killer of Children

1 Child
Every hour, one child dies from an injury.

1 in 5
About 1 in 5 child deaths is due to injury.

4 Seconds
Every 4 seconds, a child is treated for an injury in an emergency department.

The latest edition of CDC Vital Signs discusses the serious problem of child injury in the United States and the proven measures that can help save young lives.

Injury is the #1 cause of death among children. We've made progress in keeping kids safe and the number of children dying from injury dropped nearly 30% over the last decade. However, more than 9,000 children died from unintentional injuries in the United States in 2009.

Car crashes, suffocation, drowning, poisoning, fires, and falls are some of the most common ways children are hurt or killed. Though death rates for most of these are dropping, suffocation and poisoning rates are on the rise. The upsurge in suffocations has been driven by a 54% increase in reported suffocation among infants <1 year. Additionally, increases in poisoning death rates were due to a 91% increase among teens aged 15-19.

More can be done to keep our children safe from injury.

Steps for safety – Preventing Leading Causes of Child Injury

Graphic: Parents looking at thier child in a crib


  • Make sure infants sleep alone; placed on their backs on a firm surface.
  • Be sure crib meets safety standards.
  • Avoid loose bedding or soft toys in crib.

Graphic: Poisoning


  • Keep medicines away from children and teens.
  • Keep cleaning solutions and other toxic products in original packaging and where children can't get them.

Graphic: Safety seat

Motor Vehicle Crashes

  • Always use seat belts, child safety seats and booster seats that are correct for a child's age and weight.
  • Use safe-driving agreements or contracts with teens.

Graphic: A mother bathing a child


  • Learn to swim—important for parents and kids.
  • Use a four-sided fence with self-closing and self-latching gates around pool.
  • Watch kids closely when they swim.

Graphic: Cooking on a stove top


  • Use smoke alarms—where people sleep and on every level of the home—and test monthly.
  • Create and practice a family fire escape plan.
  • Install a home fire sprinkler system if possible.

Graphic: A child on a swing


  • Use a soft landing surface on playgrounds (such as sand or wood chips, not dirt or grass).
  • Use protective gear, like a helmet, during sports and recreation.
  • Install protective rails on bunk beds and loft beds.

Learn additional actions that can be taken by states and communities, health care systems, employers, and more at Vital Signs Child Injury.

National Action Plan for Child Injury Prevention

CDC is committed to preventing child injury by promoting solutions that will save lives and help children live to their fullest potential. The National Action Plan for Child Injury Prevention was developed by CDC and more than 60 stakeholders to spark action across the nation. The National Action Plan's overall goals are to:

  • Raise awareness about the problem of child injury and the effects on our nation.
  • Highlight prevention solutions by uniting stakeholders around a common set of goals and strategies.
  • Mobilize action on a national, coordinated effort to reduce child injury.

Learn more and download your copy of the National Action Plan.

More Information

Other Resources

  • Page last reviewed: April 16, 2012
  • Page last updated: April 16, 2012
  • Content source: