Choosing the right bicycle helmet for a child can significantly improve their safety and protect them against the harms of a traumatic brain injury. Not all helmets are created equal, and what may seem like a great deal on the rack could land a child in a hospital emergency room. Before buying a helmet, it is imperative to check the proper fit and ensure that the helmet has a reliable track record of protecting children from brain injuries and fatalities.
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Understanding & Choosing Children’s Helmets
Children’s helmets come in a wide range of sizes. There are toddler helmets, child helmets, youth helmets, XS, S, M, L, and more. It is imperative to measure the child’s head circumference properly to ensure the best fit.
Parents should measure the circumference by running a measuring tape along the child’s head just over the ears. This will give the appropriate range and make it easier to select the right size.
When choosing the helmet, they should make sure to check the fit before and after it is buckled. Most helmets are fitted with an adjustment knob that can be turned to tighten/loosen the fit.
Important Things To Consider
Parents should avoid helmets that are hand-me-downs and those from garage sales and thrift store bargains. These helmets may not meet current safety standards and it’s difficult to know whether the helmet was ever involved in a crash. If it was, it may have significant damage that will diminish its effectiveness.
Further, parents should always check to ensure the helmet has a sticker from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. This confirms the helmet meets the necessary standards. It’s also a good idea to research the helmet’s safety rating, what other consumers have to say about its effectiveness, and look for any recalls on the CPSC’s website to confirm the helmet is safe and sound.
Expensive doesn’t always mean better. Often, cheaper helmets have better safety ratings and will provide superior protection in a collision.
Multi-use helmets should only be used if bicycling is one of the tested uses for the helmet. Helmets designed for skateboarding, scooter riding, etc. follow different standards and are tested for different types of accidents. They may provide little to no protection in a bicycle crash.
If the child is younger, it’s best to avoid hardshell helmets as these tend to weigh more and can cause significant strain to the child’s neck. This strain could result in neck injuries and excessive fatigue that could contribute to causing a wreck.
Making Sure the Child Knows How to Wear the Helmet
Even if parents buy the right helmet for their child, it is crucial to ensure the child knows how to wear the helmet correctly. Taking the time to teach the child proper helmet usage is the best way to ensure the device will perform as required if the child tumbles or is struck by a vehicle.
The helmet should sit squarely on top of the child’s head. It should not be slanted towards the front or rear or tilted to the sides. It should be worn in a manner that doesn’t obstruct the child’s view or ability to turn their head to the left and right. It should also be properly secured so that it won’t fall forward or backward when the child leans towards the front or back.
The helmet must be tight enough that it won’t fall off, but not so tight that it exerts pressure on the child’s skull. It is also imperative to make sure the child isn’t wearing any hats, ribbons, bows, etc. that negatively affect the proper fit. Properly fitted, the child should be able to slip one finger beneath the helmet. It’s a good idea to have children shake their heads back and forth to ensure the proper fit.
Children should know how to adjust their chinstrap and any internal padding. When properly secured, the helmet straps should lay flat against the head and form a clear and defined “Y” at the earlobes. If it’s done properly, the child should be able to slip one finger between the straps and their head/face.
Regularly Testing the Helmet
Children grow quickly and it’s not uncommon for them to outgrow the helmet in a single year. Regularly check to ensure the child’s helmet continues to fit properly. It’s also advisable to give the helmet a thorough inspection if the child is ever involved in a collision. If the helmet is cracked or the styrofoam core is damaged, the helmet should be discarded and replaced. It’s unsafe to allow the child to continue to use a damaged helmet as it will provide far less protection in the next accident.