Home may be where the heart is, but it also can be a place filled with hazards – both hidden and in plain sight.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), more than 145,000 Americans died of unintentional injuries in 2015, with a large number of those injuries happening at home. Of course, many more people each year end up at the local walk-in clinic or hospital emergency department due to accidents occurring around the house.
Watch Out Below
While everyone may be at-risk, when it comes to household injuries, hospitals and clinics often see two groups of patients at opposite ends of the age spectrum: seniors and children. One of the most common reasons for a trip to an emergency department for both groups is…trips.
“Every day we check in patients who fall at home,” says Joe Alvarado, MSN, RN, manager of Emergency and Trauma Services at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Waxahachie.
“The aging process can affect eye sight, hearing and can lessen reflexes, so seniors often trip over common things they’ve had in their homes for years, like rugs.”
Alvarado also says that – at least anecdotally – tripping over pets is becoming more common and leading to injuries. For most people, a fall at home, regardless of the reason, simply means bumps or bruises or perhaps a cut. However, it can be more serious for the elderly and kids.
“For our senior population, a fracture of the leg or hip is much more common,” explains Alvarado, “while children may get head injuries when they trip.”
To prevent potentially serious falls, it is important for seniors to get regular check-ups to have their eyes and hearing tested, and to let their doctor and loved ones know if they are experiencing weakness or balance issues. Physical therapy may be able to help.
Out of Reach
The NSC reports that accidental poisoning now outpaces even car accidents as the leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths. The most common type of poisoning is accidentally overdosing on prescription medications. Both medications and household chemicals in little hands are a recipe for trouble.
“It’s not uncommon to have kids get into chemicals and hurt themselves,” says Alvarado. “Keep chemicals and medications stored away and out of reach, and be sure your home is safe proofed if you have little ones.”
Flu season receives most its press when it starts in the fall. But January and February are usually the peak of flu season. There are other bugs lurking out there as well, which can cause illnesses ranging from mild to severe.
“To prevent the spread of viruses, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly,” says Alvarado. “We tell people all the time, frequent handwashing is the number one way to prevent the spread of infection.”
Keeping your home free of clutter and regularly cleaning hands and countertops to keep them free of germs, can help make a happy home a healthy one as well.
FIRST AID READY
The American Red Cross and other organizations recommend keeping a first-aid kit at home and even in the car in the case of sudden illness or injury. Kits can be purchased online or at a local pharmacy, or you can make one. Some staples of a sound first-aid kit include:
» absorbent compress dressings
» adhesive bandages and cloth tape
» antibiotic ointment
» antiseptic wipe packets
» blanket (space blanket) [Available on the Red Cross Store]
» breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
» hydrocortisone ointment packets
» instant cold compress
» nonlatex gloves
» oral thermometer
» roller bandages
» sterile gauze pads
Learn these tips and more at: redcross.org
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Waxahachie
Physicians provide clinical services as members of the medical staff at one of Baylor Scott & White Health’s subsidiary, community or affiliated medical centers and do not provide clinical services as employees or agents of those medical centers or Baylor Scott & White Health.