Everyday we walk past potential hazards without giving them a thought. But every homeowner should be aware of where and how accidents are most likely to occur. The risks, of course, largely depend on your age and living situation, which is why we’ve outlined some of the most common home injuries, how they may apply to your life, and how you can prevent them.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 52,000 people died in their home from poisoning in 2017, more than falling (23,300), choking (2,700), and fires (2,500) combined.
Who’s at risk? Household poisoning prevention is largely geared towards children, which makes sense. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 300 children a day are brought to the ER as a result of poisoning. However, Poison Center notes that while poisoning cases occur more frequently with children, they tend to be more serious in teens and adults. Stats from the NSC back this up: in 2017, the highest percentage of deaths from poisoning happened in the 25-44-year-old age group.
How can I prevent it? To prevent household poisoning, the CDC recommends:
- Keeping all medicines, detergents, and cleaning solutions in their original packages and secured in areas where children cannot reach them.
- Programing Poison Control’s number in your phone - 1-800-222-1222.
- Reading the label on all medications before taking or administering to your children.
- Disposing of all expired or unneeded medicines. This even includes over-the-counter drugs as well as vitamins and supplements.
Furthermore, equip your home with up-to-date carbon monoxide dispensers and test them regularly to make sure they’re functioning properly.
When mounted TVs became a common household feature, reports started coming out about children being struck by unstable or inadequately mounted screens. Sadly, product instability is still a leading cause of household injuries.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commision (CPSC), 28,300 people were brought into emergency rooms between 2015-2017 due to what they’ve labeled “tip-over incidents.”
Who’s at risk? Half of tip-over incidents involved children (14,000), 37% involved adults aged 18-59 years old, and 13% involved seniors aged 60 and up.
Mounted TVs were one of the contributors, but not the only one. Of the 14,000 children injured, for example:
- 8,200 involved televisions
- 3,400 involved tables
- 2,500 involved chests, bureaus, or dressers
- 1,700 involved shelving, shelving units, or bookcases
How can I prevent it? The CPSC offers these household safety tips to avoid product instability injuries:
- Anchor furniture to the walls
- Keep TVs on sturdy, low surfaces
- Don’t leave toys and snacks on TV stands or furniture surfaces
- Tuck away TV and electronic cords
- Install anti-tip brackets into freestanding stoves and kitchen ranges
Choking is a leading factor in household injuries and fatalities, with children and the elderly most at risk. That said, it can affect anyone, with especially dire consequences for those who live alone.
Who’s at risk? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calls choking the biggest cause of unintentional deaths for children under 1 year old, and the 4th leading cause for children between 1-9. The NCS, meanwhile, found that in 2017, 1,830 deaths from choking occured to those aged 65 and up.
That’s not to say that children and elderly are the only ones at risk of choking. Though food types and consumption habits can lead to choking in anybody, those who live alone are more at risk due to lack of immediate assistance.
How can I prevent it?Rady Children’s Hospital offers these suggestions for parents:
- Teach kids to sit up straight while they eat
- Teach kids to chew and swallow before speaking
- Be cautious with hard, smooth foods, especially for kids under 4 years old. Examples include:
- Sunflower seeds
- Raw carrots, peas, and celery
- Hard candy
- Be cautious with these soft foods:
- Cheese cubes
- Hot dogs
- Peanut butter
- Chewing gum
- Diligently check the floors, playrooms, and common areas for non-edible choking hazards such as:
- Marbles and small balls
- Small office supplies (paperclips, tacks, etc)
- Learn the heimlich maneuver and CPR
Falls and Slips
Falls are one of the most common household accidents and occur most frequently with the elderly. Stairways are common locations for falls to occur, but wet surfaces are another big contributor. These include showers and bathroom floors, slick hardwood, and icy driveways and sidewalks.
Who’s at risk? The Worldwide Health Organization (WHO) says that 37.3 million falls occur each year that are severe enough to warrant medical attention. The same data shows that 646,000 people a year die from falls, and that the majority of those are aged 65 or older.
While age is the biggest risk factor in household falls, it’s not the only one. Other factors that increase household falls include poverty, overcrowded housing, medical conditions such as neurological issues, and alcohol and substance abuse. Interestingly, the WHO reports that males are more likely to die from falls, but females are more likely to suffer non-fatal falls.
How can I prevent it? The Mayo Clinic offers these tips on making your home safer:
- Keep walkways, bedrooms, bathrooms, and halls well-lit
- Keep high-traffic areas free of furniture and clutter
- Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing
- Install handrails on stairways and grab bars in the shower or tub
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub or shower, and have a bath seat in the shower for sitting
Alternatively, if an elderly person does fall, medical alert systems for seniors often come with fall detection technology, which means help can be sent in the case of an emergency without even pressing a button.
For outside the home, it’s a good idea to have sand or salt on hand to spread on icy surfaces. You may want to consider hiring someone to regularly shovel porches, driveways, and sidewalks.
Cuts and Lacerations
Cuts are a common occurrence in the home and can range in severity from everyday scrapes to emergency lacerations.
Who’s at risk? Cuts can and do happen to people of all ages. Adults frequently suffer cuts while shaving or cooking, though household repairs are also common instances. Children’s cuts often stem from everyday accidents, though exposure to dangerous utensils is common as well.
How can I prevent it?
- Scissors, sharp kitchen utensils, and razors should always be stored in childproof drawers or cabinets
- Dishwashers should also have safety latches since sharp cutlery and glassware is kept inside
- Toolboxes should be kept out of reach of children
- Arts and crafts and school supply cabinets, which often store scissors, sewing needles, protractors, etc. should be kept out of reach of children. Alternatively, they should be separated so that the sharper objects cannot be accessed without adult supervision.
Attics, basements, garages, and home exteriors can also be overlooked sources of hazardous situations that pose danger to people of all ages. It’s important to check the less-visited areas of a home for objects such as:
- Loose siding
- Dislodged nails
- Out-of-use appliances and old machinery
- Raw construction materials like sheet metal or lumber
It’s crucial to have first-aid kits on hand with up-to-date bandaids/bandages, cleaning solutions, and sterile equipment.
The majority of burns occur in the home and workplace, according to the World Health Organization, which distinguishes between the 3 types of common burns:
- Scalds (from hot liquids)
- Contact burns (from hot solids)
- Flame burns
Who’s at risk? The WHO cites recent data showing that burns are most common in children and adult women. According to its data, burns are the 5th most common cause of non-fatal childhood injuries.
How can I prevent it? HealthyChildren.org suggests these tips for treating burns at home:
- Don’t leave food cooking on the stove unattended
- Don’t leave hot coffee or tea sitting out
- Keep matches and lighters locked away
- Adjust your water heater so that the faucet produces water no hotter than 120 degrees Fahrenheit
- Test bathtub temperatures before bathing children
Strangulation is a less-common but no-less-serious hazard that can occur in a variety of ways, some of them unexpected. It’s good to know what conditions and objects in the home can lead to strangulation and follow precautions to prevent it.
Who’s at risk? Unintentional strangulation in the home occurs most frequently with children. According to the The National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention (CFRP), toddlers, pre-schoolers, and children with special needs are most at risk.
How can I prevent it? A 2017 NPR report shined a light on the dangers of window blind cords, which are a widespread cause of unintended child strangulation. According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, around 12 children die every year from their neck becoming entangled in window blind cords. Solutions include:
- Replacing all corded blinds with cordless blinds or blinds with inaccessible cords
- Use interior window shutters, draperies, or curtains instead
- Move cribs, couches, and furniture away from the blinds so children cannot climb up and access the cords
Other causes of strangulation and suffocation include plastic bags, large boxes and chests, straps, ribbons, and cords connected to articles of clothing. Some prevention tips include:
- Keep plastic bags out of reach. Tie them in a knot before storing or disposing
- Make sure all large containers and toy chests have easily removable lids
- Poke air holes in toy chests and large containers
- Make sure washing and drying machines and other large appliances are always closed and secured
According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 2,200 people die each year from unintentional house fires.
Who’s at risk? House fires endanger people of all ages. That said, fires are the 3rd leading cause of death in children aged 1-14, according to the National Safety Council.
Cooking incidents caused more than half of all house fires (51.6%) in 2017 according to data from the US Fire Administration, followed by heating (9.1%), electrical malfunctions (6.5%), and open flames (4.3%).
The holidays usually see a spike in house fires as well. Fourth of July fireworks and Christmas decorations and candles are major sources of reported house fires. Also important to note is the fact that, according to CPSC, 1,800 cooking fires are reported every year on Thanksgiving Day alone—quadruple the average of a normal day.
How can I prevent it? The Red Cross offers these suggestions:
- Install smoke alarms and check them regularly. The Red Cross recommends, at bare minimum, installing smoke alarms on each level of the home and outside of each sleeping area.
- Consider fire sprinkler systems or fire extinguishers in your home
- Keep your home heating sources cleaned and regular maintained
- Check electrical wiring regularly
- Avoid overloading outlets and extension cords
- Don’t store combustible materials near heat sources
- Don’t run wiring under rugs, around nails, or in high-traffic areas
Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1-4, according to Stanford Children’s Health. Though most household drowning cases occur when there’s a pool or lake on the grounds, drowning also occurs with some frequency in the bathtub.
Who’s at risk? Children and teenagers are most at risk of household drowning incidents. According to Stanford, children can drown in as little as 1 inch of water. Today.com reports that around 87 children die every year from drowning at home.
How can I prevent it? Never leave your child in the bath unattended. Furthermore, if you’re running a bath, make sure to keep your child out of the bathroom until you’re ready to bathe them. If you have a pool or hot tub, it’s recommended that you:
- Surround the pool or hot tub with 4-sided isolation fencing and self-closing and self-latching gates
- Secure, lock, or remove the steps or ladders leading up to an above-the-ground pool
- Do not rely on floatation toys such as water wings or noodles to keep your child safe
- Learn to perform CPR
According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, almost 40% of unintentional shootings among children ages 11-14 occur in the home of a friend. Currently there are around 22 million children living in homes with guns.
Who’s at risk: Children and young adults suffer the most injuries and fatalities from household firearm accidents. Data points to boys being higher at risk than girls. Adolescents are also at a higher risk of suicide when there’s a gun inside the home.
How can I prevent it? The American Academy of Pediatrics says that the best way to avoid gun-related accidents in the home is to remove all guns from the home. Parents that want to keep guns in their homes should leave all firearms locked up, unloaded, separated from ammunition, and stored in a place where children have no access to them.
A Safe Home Starts With a Smart Plan
Kitchens and bathrooms seem like the most obvious spots for accidents to happen, but as we see above, there are many less-obvious hazards throughout the home. The good news is that they can be easily placated by simply understanding where and how accidents can happen and taking appropriate measures. These can include tidying up common areas, anchoring heavy furniture to the wall, childproofing drawers and dishwashers, and doing routine checks of your home’s exterior. No matter how old you are or who you live with, it’s wise to educate yourself and be proactive about household danger. A few simple steps can go a long way in reducing the chance of accidents and creating a safer home.
Knowing the risks of injuries and how to prevent them is important, but as we all know accidents in the home do happen. If you want to protect yourself or a loved one, the best medical alert systems foster peace of mind by bridging the gap between accident and assistance with the simple press of a button.