Gun Injuries to U.S. Kids Likely Underestimated: Study

ERs treat 20,600 children on average for gunshot wounds a year

MONDAY, Oct. 17 (HealthDay News) -- The number of gun injuries suffered by children in the United States is significant, and most of those kids are shot intentionally, a new study finds.

There were 185,950 emergency department visits for gun-related injuries to children 19 years and younger between 1999 and 2007, according to the analysis of data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.

That works out to about 20,600 such injuries a year, the researchers said.

Of the overall gun-related injuries noted in the study, nearly 8,400 (4.5 percent) were fatal. The study also found that 63 percent of the injuries were intentional and 37 percent were accidental.

Children at highest risk included males, adolescents age 12 and older, and blacks.

The study was scheduled for presentation Oct. 17 at the American Academy of Pediatrics' national meeting in Boston.

"This is a significant finding. Perhaps we are underestimating the true scope of this problem," lead author Dr. Saranya Srinivasan said in an AAP news release.

"We know there are certain pediatric populations at higher risk for firearm injuries. We hope this research will bring attention to the issue of pediatric firearm injuries, and that we can continue to focus our efforts on firearm injury prevention campaigns, including targeting the regions and groups at the greatest risk for these injuries," Srinivasan added.

The most pediatric gun injuries occurred in the South (47 percent), and the least in the Northeast (5 percent), the researchers found.

Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, experts say.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children and gun safety.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, Oct. 17, 2011

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