Accidents happen, right? Not necessarily. In fact, some of the most common injuries that occur at home don’t have to happen.
About a third of all injuries happen in the home, and they tend to hit small children and elderly adults most. This guide will help you prevent five common home injuries: falls, choking and suffocation, burns, poisoning, and knife cuts. While these injuries can be serious or even fatal, preventing them generally just takes a little thought and time.
Home Safety: 5 Tips for Preventing Falls
Falls are the No. 1 cause of home injuries and death in the U.S., according to the Home Safety Council. The two groups most at risk for falls are children younger than 5 and adults over the age of 70.
Try these strategies to prevent falls at home:
- Make the bathroom a no-slip zone. Install grab bars and non-slip mats or appliques in the tub or shower. Use a bathmat with a nonskid bottom and clean up any water that splashes on floors right away.
- Safety-proof stairs. Remove clutter from stairs and walkways. Stairs inside and out should have handrails, preferably on both sides. Have good lighting over stairs.
For babies and toddlers, install hardware-mounted safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs. Pressure-mounted gates are less effective. Gates should have the JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) Certification Seal. Never use accordion-style gates.
Put a guard on indoor lofts, landings, balconies, and stair banisters if your child can slip between the posts. Plexiglas is a good option because it bends, is easy to cut, and doesn’t shatter.
- Toss the throw rugs. Throw rugs are a big tripping hazard for young and old people. At the very least, tape or tack them to the floor.
- Leave a light on. Ideally, have night-lights in bedrooms, bathrooms, and halls.
- Make windows safe. New York City cut children’s deaths from window-related falls by a third after requiring window guards. Window screens are not strong enough to prevent falls. Install window guards with quick-release mechanisms (in case of fire) on upper floor windows. Keep furniture away from windows, especially in children’s room, and always watch children around windows.
Home Safety: Prevent Poisoning
About 90% of poison exposures happen at home, making it the second leading cause of accidental death in the home.
Nonfatal poisonings are most common among children under 5 years old. The most common causes of these poisonings are:
- Cleaning and household products
- Personal care and beauty products
- Medicines (especially dangerous are those with iron)
- Lead and carbon monoxide
Try these strategies:
- Know your poisons. It would be easier if every bottle that contained poison was marked with a skull and crossbones, as they are in cartoons. Poisons come in many forms: cosmetics, garden products such as fertilizer, furniture polish, dishwasher detergent, and carbon monoxide from burning fuel.
- Buy wisely. Purchase products with child safety lids, whenever you can.
- Store safely. Put any product with a warning label up high and in a locked cabinet. Don’t keep medicines in your purse, pockets, or drawers. Keep products in their original containers. Do not use food containers for storage.
- Watch your children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most child poisonings occur when parents are cooking dinner or not watching their children closely for other reasons.
- Follow directions on chemical products. Open a window when you are using them. Never mix household cleaning products together -- bleach and ammonia mixed together create a toxic gas, for example.
- Keep carbon monoxide outside. Have heaters, stoves, and fireplaces checked by a professional every year. Carbon monoxide can also enter the house through an adjoining garage. Never run an engine or car motor or use a barbecue in a garage.
- Stay on top of medicines. Follow directions and measure carefully, keep track of when medicines are taken, and put them away right after use. Get rid of expired medicine by crushing or dissolving medications and adding them to old coffee grounds, then place them in a sealed plastic bag in the garbage can. Don't flush them down the toilet unless the instructions say to do so. Monitor use of medicines prescribed for teens.
- Post the poison control telephone number. Have it near every phone and store it in your cell phone: (800) 222-1222.