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It's important for kids to wear helmets when participating in active sports such as indoor rock climbing. The helmets designed for children are made specifically for the type of sport or activity. For example, a child's climbing helmet is designed to the EN 12492, Snell N-94 climbing and mountaineering helmet standard. This means it is designed to protect the head for the specific type of bumps and impacts associated with a climbing fall. Children's helmets made for skiing and snowboarding are designed to the ASTM F2040, CE 1077, Snell RS-98 or S-98 standard. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, "Different activities require different helmets, and there are helmets for every season's sports". The NHTSA(1) provided an effectiveness estimate that 85 to 88% of head and brain injuries could be prevented by correctly wearing the appropriate helmet for the sport or activity.

Types of Child Helmets

There are many types of helmets, and the manufacturers usually designs several models for children. Look for a label or marking on the inside of the child helmet that shows which standard it complies with. Some comply with more than one standard and therefore can be used with more than one sport. The US CPSA(2) lists many helmets with the applicable manufacturer's safety standard for various sports in which children might participate:

Fitting a Child's Helmet(2)(3)

Fit of a Helmet vs Child's Growth

Most child helmets are built with an adjustment for growth. This is also useful for wear over a beanie in extreme cold conditions. Other children's helmets may have several sets of foam fitting pads. If this is the type of adjustment provided they can be replaced using thinner pads as your child grows. The pads are only a spacer for fitting. They do not change the level of protection provided by the helmet.(4)

When to Replace a Child's Helmet.

There are three factors to consider. 1) fit, 2) severity of impact, 3) helmet design is a single-impact or multiple-impact type.

References: (1) NHTSA: http://www.nhtsa.gov; (2) CPSA: http://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/117293/349.pdff; (3) NHTSA: How to Fit a Child's Helmet; (4) Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute: http://www.bhsi.org/childpam.htm.

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