“Watch what you’re doing!” “Be Careful!” Both are common phrases we hear often. But statistics show we aren’t following that advice. The National Center for Health Statistics says accidental injuries sent more than 29 million of us to the emergency room in 2018. Another 39 million had to see their doctor. And nearly 170,000 died from those injuries. The National Safety Council says those numbers are going up every year, as more people get hurt at home.
The most common cause of home injuries is poisoning. Most (80%) affect children between the ages of 1 and 4 who’ve gotten into cleaning products or cosmetics. Fortunately, the majority of these accidental poisonings aren’t fatal, but more than 64,000 people died in 2017 from unintentional poisonings. Poisonings among adults are largely due to the opioid crisis in the U.S.
The second most common home injury is the result of a fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that each year, 1 in 4 adults 65 and older take a serious tumble. Over the past 10 years, as the population of the U.S. has aged, the number of older adult deaths from falling has increased by 58%. The numbers are just as staggering for children, especially toddlers. The CDC reports 8,000 children are treated in U.S. emergency rooms each day for fall-related injuries. That’s more than 2.5 million a year.
Thousands of people die from choking at home each year. In fact, choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury deaths. Food is often the culprit in older people. Living alone, having dentures or difficulty swallowing can increase risk. For children, choking hazards include balloons, coins, buttons, toys with small parts, and marbles. While the majority of these items are hard, a soft balloon is also a danger. When a child tries to blow up the balloon, they sometimes end up inhaling it.
Lawn mower accidents are more common than you might think. On average, 13 children in the U.S. go to the hospital every day with a lawn mower injury. That’s almost 4,800 kids per year. Sadly, many of these injuries require amputation. The most common mower injuries are cuts and burns to the hands and fingers, followed by the legs, feet, and toes. Kids under 5 are more likely to touch a hot surface or as a bystander or passenger. Children between 5 and 17 are more likely to be cut by the mower or a projectile.
Fire departments across the country respond to a fire every 24 seconds! The National Fire Protection Agency says someone other than firefighters is injured in a fire every 36 minutes. The vast majority (72%) happen in houses and apartments. House fires injuries are often preventable and the good news is they have been on the decline for the last 10 years.
Tips to Prevent Home Injuries
To prevent poisonings in the home, put child-proof latches on all cabinets. Keep potentially toxic materials like cleaners, pesticides, and detergent pods up high and locked away. Do the same with your medicine. Keep food and potential poisons separate. Don’t store them together and keep them in their original containers. For example, don’t pour antifreeze into a milk jug.
It’s an unfortunate truth that we get more fragile as we get older. Many of us take more medication when we’re elderly. These contribute to falls. You can make your home safer by getting rid of or moving things that are easy to trip over. Add grab bars in your bathroom. Put railings on both sides of the stairs. Also, do strength and balance exercises and ask your doctor what else you can do to prevent falls.
You can keep children safe by anchoring all furniture securely to the wall. Put guards on windows and gates at the top of staircases. Young children need constant supervision. Remember if they can get into trouble, they will!
There are quite a few things you can do to keep your child from choking. Make them sit while eating. Cut food into small pieces and show them how to chew it well. Put small toys and household items out of reach. And learn how to do the Heimlich maneuver, so you’re ready, just in case.
Most everyone wants to keep their lawn looking green and manicured, but we have to be sensible about it. Children who are are far too young shouldn’t be pushing or driving a mower! Don’t let your child use a push lawn until they’re 12 and don’t them drive a riding move until they’re 16. There is never any reason to allow someone to ride along on the mower! Keep children out of the yard while a mower is in operation.
As for adults? Always wear closed shoes (not flip-flops or sandals) when mowing. Pick up toys, sticks and other objects from the lawn before cutting the grass. Never try to unclog a jam while the mower is running. And keep the mower in good working order.
Most house fires are preventable through some simple adjustments. Cooking fires lead the way in home fires that injure people. Always stay in the kitchen while something’s on the stove or in the oven. Check the food regularly and don’t put flammable materials, like a potholder, near the burners. Heating is right behind cooking as a fire starter. Never leave space or portable heaters or fireplaces unattended. Keep all flammables away from them and use the kind that turn off if they fall over. Make an escape plan the whole family knows about and, most importantly, have a working smoke detector in your home, and change the batteries every time you move the clocks forward or back.
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