Did you know that more than 18,000 Americans die every year from injuries that take place in the home? This makes it the second most common location for such fatalities. Why are home injuries so prevalent? Most Americans are unaware that they are able to prevent such accidents. From minor burns to poisoning, electrical shocks to suffocations. Unintentional injuries, no mater the magnitude, are never fun and sadly result in an average of 21 million medical visits each year – that adds up to be about $220 billion in medical costs! What causes these problems and how can we prevent them? Read more on some common triggers, home injury statistics, and easy to apply home safety tips.
Common problems in the home that lead to injuries
- Inadequate railings and banisters
- Unsafe storage of medications
- Water heaters set too high
- Firearms improperly stored or locked up
Falls in the home can be fatal
Falls are the leading cause of home injury deaths with nearly 6,000 lives claimed per year as a result of falls in the home. Falls are an especially common home injury threat for the elderly. Every year, one in every three Americans 65 and older suffers a fall that often lead to moderate or severe injuries and increases the risk of early death. More than 662,000 of adults who suffered from falls in 2010 were hospitalized due to non-fatal fall injuries. Between 20-30% adults who fall suffer from moderate to severe hip fractures, head traumas and lacerations. Over 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls and people ages 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely than those between ages 65-74 to be admitted to a long term care facility for a year or longer as a result of falls in the home.
Poisoning and other household risks
The second leading cause of home injury death is poisoning. It leads to nearly 5,000 fatalities each year. Accidents involving fires and burns are the third leading cause of home injury deaths, and they claim more than 3,000 lives a year. The fourth highest home safety risk is airway obstruction (choking, suffocation and strangulation). This claims about 1,000 lives annually. Water related incidents, particularly drowning, are responsible for 800 deaths per year.
Children and home accident statistics
Children have the highest risk for at home injury and accidents. More than 3.4 million children experience an unintentional household injury every year and 2,300 children under 15 die from these unintentional injuries. The leading causes of childhood injury in the home are choking, suffocation, drowning, submersion, falls, fires and burns, guns and poisoning. Two children die as a result of being burned while over 300 children are treated in emergency rooms each year after suffering from burns. Scald burn injuries caused by hot liquids or steam are more likely to be sustained by younger children while older children more often sustain injuries from flame burns that are caused by direct contact with fire.
Drowning is the leading cause of death and injuries in children ages 1-4. Water can be seen as a high threat to children as they can drown in as little as 2 inches of water. Little to no supervision is dangerous anytime young children are dealing with water in the home. And we hear sad stories all too often of a caretaker who neglects to monitor a child while they’re in the bath tub which results in a drowning accident.
Home injury prevention tips
While statistics about home injury and fatalities are alarming, preventing them can be quite easy. Here are some simple ways to prevent the most common home injuries.
How to prevent falls
- Clear clutter! This is a very important thing to consider when preventing falls. Instead of placing items on the floor, put them in storage rooms, bins or closets to avoid hazardous footing.
- Get rid of rugs. They’re actually more likely to cause falls. If you don’t want to get rid of your rugs, put tape under small rugs to keep them from sliding.
- Safety proof stairs. Place a gate at the top of the banister and provide adequate handrails on both sides of the staircase. For small children, place safety gates at the top and bottom of the stairs and banister guard can help from little ones from slipping through the cracks. Adding attached carpeting or a runner to hardwood stairs can provide more traction to prevent sliding.
- Bathroom safety. Place grab bars and non-slip mats in your bathroom and bathtub.
- Light it up. Make sure there is sufficient lighting and night lights in the bathroom.
- Wear slippers or shoes with rubber soles. Walking around with socks makes for a slippery situation and walking barefoot could cause you to injure your foot which could trigger a fall.
How to prevent poisoning
- Store cleaning products safely and out of reach of children.
- Do not use food containers as storage for hazardous materials.
- Clearly label all unmarked liquid containers.
- Keep carbon monoxide outside (and monitor the levels in your home closely).
- Never mix household cleaning products together, especially bleach and ammonia (creates toxic gas).
- Be cautious when taking and storing medicines, read directions carefully and put away in a secure location right after use.
- Monitor heaters and fireplaces. Make sure to have them cleaned every year before the cold weather months.
- Monitor children while in the kitchen. Don’t leave them unintended around stoves, microwaves or ovens because most poisonings occur while parents are cooking.
- Post the poison control center phone number in your kitchen (on the refrigerator, near the phone, and store it in your cell phone).
How to prevent choking and suffocation
- Always watch children! It is very easy for kids to choke or suffocate on little things; especially their own toys. So put these items away in a safe place once they are finished with them.
- Keep trash bags and other plastic bags out of reach of children.
- Make sure strings, ropes, cords are kept away from kids.
- Practice safety when putting babies to sleep. Make sure there are no objects in their bed that could cause them to choke or suffocate.
- Monitor children during mealtime. Teach them the proper way to chew and eat food. Cut up things that can be eaten in smaller portions for babies and smaller children. Avoid candy and other hard foods that make it easier for them to choke.
- Make sure you are checking the house regular for small items that children may have access to and put them away when you can to avoid swallowing.
How to prevent water-related injuries and flooding
- Never leave water running when you’re not around.
- Monitor your children while they are bathing so that they won’t drown.
- Monitor your own use of water while bathing and don’t use electronics in or around the water. (put down the cell phone too!)
- Make sure washing machine and dishwasher are turned off when you are finished using them.
- Turn your water off when you leave your home for a long period of time (as long as its not too cold for pipes to burst).
- Keep toilet lids closed. No more excuses!
- If you have a swimming pool, be sure to install four-sided fencing to separate the house and yard from the pool. Clear everything from the pool once finished and never leave children unsupervised while swimming.
How to prevent fires and burns
- Install smoke detectors in every level of your home, most importantly in your kitchen, bedrooms and basement. Make sure you replace batteries every 6 months and test your alarm monthly. Better yet, have a monitored smoke detector that will ensure that the fire is attended to quickly, especially if you are not home. Read our research on the best smoke detectors for your home.
- Be careful when cooking. You don’t want to leave the kitchen for too long or your food could burn which could cause a fire.
- Maintain your home. Make sure chimneys, fireplaces, and furnaces have the necessary cleaning.
- Have an electrician come in and check your electric wiring yearly.
- Keep children away from matches and other fire starting products. Also, never leave them unattended with electronics!
- Do not leave candles lit over night or when you leave the home.
- Always be prepared for a fire. Have a fire safety plan and make sure everyone in the household is knows how to follow it in case of a fire so the proper actions can be taken in a safe manner. Read more fire safety tips.
If people are aware that home injuries and fatalities are a result of their own fault, they will be more likely to take their own precautions and preventative tips to keep these accidents from happening. Do you have any safety tips for the home you’d like to share? Comment below!