From accidents and illnesses to injuries and infestations, the world can attack your kids in a million different ways. Since you can't protect them from everything, your best bet is to separate the unlikely nightmare scenarios from those that pose a real risk.
School shootings are among the most publicized, dramatic, and terrifying dangers facing children today. But research shows that, when it comes to gun violence, school is a safer place than home. Children ages 5 to 18 were 200 times more likely to become homicide victims at a private residence than at school.
School bus accidents are another dramatic, panic-inducing, and thankfully very rare hazard for children. Only about 0.4 percent of fatal motor-vehicle accidents involve school transportation vehicles and in nearly 75 percent of those fatalities, the victims were in another vehicle involved in the crash.
Chicken pox is highly contagious, and many kids can spread it before they know they have it. Although it's much more serious for adults, the vast majority of people who get infected with chicken pox are under the age of 15. The good news is: It's much less common now, and vaccination can prevent the condition for 80 percent of the population. Instances of chicken pox dropped by 90 percent between 2005 and 2015 in schools that require vaccination.
Reliable numbers are not available, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 6 million and 12 million 3- to 11-year-olds are victims of head lice infestations every year. Lice don't spread disease but can cause serious skin problems and a maddening itch. Contrary to popular belief, they're not caused by bad hygiene; they spread mostly through head-to-head contact with infected people. African-Americans are far less likely to suffer head lice than kids of other races.
Acute illness is one of the biggest causes of school absenteeism in America, and few are more common and costly than influenza. Millions of children get the flu every year, thousands require hospitalization, and some even die. Kids under 5 — and especially under 2 — face the highest risk of serious complications. The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get vaccinated.
What's known colloquially as the common cold can actually be caused by up to 300 different viruses. What separates it from other illnesses is that no vaccine can prevent it and antibiotics can't cure it. Adults average two to three colds per year and kids come down with even more. Virtually nothing keeps more kids out of school than the common cold.
Problems with oral health force kids between the ages of 5 and 17 to miss nearly 2 million combined days of school every year, making it one of the most common chronic conditions among American children. One in five children ages 5 to 11 and one in seven adolescents ages 12 to 19 suffers from at least one untreated decayed tooth. Children in low-income families suffer from much higher rates of oral health problems than children of more affluent parents.
Childhood asthma is one of the most common chronic conditions among American children and one of the leading causes of school absenteeism. According to the CDC, three children in an average classroom of 30 will have asthma, which can be aggravated by secondhand smoke and dust mites. Poor kids, children who live in or near cities, and minorities suffer higher rates and more severe symptoms.
There are roughly 20 million new STIs in America every year. Teens and young adults ages 15 to 24 account for about half of those new infections, which are split about equally between males and females, even though they make up just one-quarter of the sexually active population.
More than 18 percent of children and adolescents ages 2 through 19 suffer from obesity, a chronic condition that can lead to reduced quality of life and dangerous illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. More than one in five 12- to 19-year-olds is obese, and Hispanic and black populations have the highest incidence of obesity.
Violence and related psychological trauma are both causes of chronic absenteeism from school. About 20 percent of children witness violence in their homes or neighborhoods, more than 16 percent suffer from physical abuse, and more than 9 percent suffer from sexual abuse. For adolescents ages 15 to 19, homicide is the third leading cause of death.
The good news: Fire-related deaths for kids up to age 14 decreased dramatically — by almost 50 percent — between 2006 and 2015. Of course, that does not mean you should stop teaching your kids about the dangers of playing with fire. Thousands of fires, most of of them house fires, are still started by kids every year.
What the CDC refers to as "intentional self harm" is the third leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 14 and the second leading cause of death for adolescents ages 15 to 19. Instances of suicide across all age groups are rising at alarming rates in nearly every state in America. More than half of all victims do not have a diagnosed mental condition.
Accidents are the leading cause of death among children across all three major age groups: 1 to 4, 5 to 14, and 15 to 19. Suffocation is by far the most common accident among infants under the age of 1, and drowning is the gravest danger for kids up to the age of 4. Falls, drug overdoses, and poisoning are the most common threats to adolescents. For kids 15 and older, concussions — usually resulting from sports or play — are more prevalent.
When it comes to physical danger in the form of accidents and injuries, motor vehicle crashes are in a class by themselves. Six teenagers die every day in car accidents, and 16- to 19-year-olds are three times more likely to die in car crashes than those who make it to 20. Males are twice as likely as females to die in a crash.