By definition, an accidental injury is an injury that could have been prevented. While 100% of all home injuries cannot be prevented, many can. The Healthy Homes Coalition wants families to be safe in their homes.
What are the most common accidental injuries in the home?
All combined, burns and scalds, falls, and poisonings are responsible for 86% of home injury deaths. Drowning only comprise 3% of home deaths, and fire arms only 1%. All accidents are preventable.
Trips and falls are the leading cause of unintentional home injury and cause 43% of home injury deaths. Fires and burns are the third leading cause of accidental home injury and cause 9% of home injury deaths. But fire is not the only way children get burned. Bathing and kitchen related accidents are the most common causes of scalds and result in approximately 3,800 injuries each year.
Poisonings are the cause of 34% of home injury deaths, and are the result of not only chemicals kept in reach of children, but also carbon monoxide poisoning and misuse of medication.
(Data from the National Center for Healthy Housing)
Fires are the third leading cause of accidental injury in the home.
According to FEMA, an estimated 236,200 fires in one- and two-family homes were reported in the United States each year (2009-2011). Those fires caused an estimated 1,980 deaths, 8,525 injuries, 5.5 billion dollars in property loss, and accounted for 65 percent of all residential building fires annually.
Cooking is the leading cause of fires in the home. House fires are more frequent in the cooler months.
The five biggest threats for fire in the home are:
- Cooking – especially on the stovetop. Do not leave the stovetop unattended while cooking.
- Heating – give portable space heaters 3 feet of space all the way around. If using logs in the fireplace, inspect and clean the chimney annually.
- Smoking – smoke outside and away from furniture.
- Electrical – deteriorating electrical cords can fray and spark. Check cords to make sure they are in good shape and replace them as needed. Old wiring shoud be updated. Do not overload circuits.
- Candles – Consider using battery-operated candles. If not, monitor and remain in the room while candles are burning.
Who is at Risk?
Fires put all household occupants at risk. Small children, the elderly and the diabled are at increased risk due to limitations on their ability to escape a house fire.
Structure fires kill. Those that are lucky to survive my be harmed by burns, carbon monoxide poisoning, exposure to other toxic fumes, trips, and falls.
Exit Drills In The Home (EDITH) can help prepare for emergency. When there is a fire in the home, the family that has practiced and is prepared is more likely to survive unharmed. There are four simple steps to preparation.
- Prepare a fire escape plan.
- Install and maintain smoke detectors.
- Practice exit drills in the home regularly. Children should practice too!
- Examine your home for fire hazards and take steps to prevent a fire before it occurs.
The Healthy Homes Coalition recommends one hard-wired or 10-year lithium battery smoke alarm inside and outside of each sleeping room, and one alarm on each floor of the home, including the basement. Test the alarms once a month and install new ones at least every ten years.
Burns & Scalding
Bathing and kitchen related accidents are the most common causes of scalds and result in approximately 3,800 injuries each year.
Burns come from both open flames as well as hot surfaces, such as stove tops, pot and pans, hot radiators, exhaust flues, exposed light bulbs and more.
Scalds are also common and come from hot food and liquids. One of the most common causes of scalds, surprisingly, is hot water right out of the tap. While tap water may not seem too hot to a typical adult, children and the elderly have much more sensitive skin and can be harmed when the tap water is above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Who is at Risk?
Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable to burns and scalds.
Scalds and burns can kill. Burns and scalds cause 9% of home injury deaths.
- Check and adjust the temperature of hot tap water. The maximum heat should be set at 120 F.
- Test children’s bath water before placing them in the tub with simple bath thermometer.
- While cooking on the stovetop, keep pot handles turned inwards.
- Use oven mitts and potholders, and keep children away from the cook space.
- Use caution while removing items from the microwave.
- If you have radiators, install radiator covers.
Trips & Falling
Trips and falls are the leading cause of unintentional home injury and cause 43% of home injury deaths. Often times they are caused by situations that are 100% preventable, such as slipping on a loose rug or tripping over clutter, broken flooring, or an extension cord.
- There are numerous causes of slips, trips and falls in the home. Some of the more prevalent sources are:
- Wet or slippery surfaces. Think showers and tubs as well as spills on the kitchen floor or an unsecured rug.
- Environmental conditions. Ice in the winter or wet steps after a rain.
- Insufficient lighting. Not being able to see can cause people to stumble over items that they would normally avoid.
- Changes in elevation. Stairs certainly come to mind, but any change of more than a quarter of an inch can cause people to stumble. Flooring changes, cracks in flooring or pavement, and thresholds can all cause falls.
- Housekeeping issues. Items left on the floor or stairs can cause certain hazards.
Who is at Risk?
All people are at risk of falls, but they are more common in children (who are just learning to walk and are still developing their sense of balance) and the elderly.
The obvious health impacts are scrapes, bruises and broken bones. The elderly are particularly susceptible to falls, and the stress of the injury can have extreme effects upon their health. According to a recent study, women aged 65 and older who fracture a hip are more than two times as likely to die in the year following injury.
- Look around your home for potential trip and fall hazards and correct them.
- Wipe up spills and other liquids on the floor right away.
- Use double-sided tape to tape down area rugs.
- Make sure lighting is sufficient in all areas, and that it can be turned on without walking in the dark.
- Repair flooring and stairs that are in disrepair.
- Install stable railings alongside stairs.
- Use a stair gate and window guards, especially with younger children.
- Install grab bars in showers and bathtubs.