Accidental Injury FAQs
What is an “accidental injury”?
By definition, an accidental injury is an injury that could have been prevented. While 100% of all home injuries cannot be prevented, many can.
What are the most common accidental injuries in the home?
All combined, burns and scalds, falls, and poisonings are responsible for the majority of home injury deaths. Drowning and fire arms are other accidental injuries.
According to the National Center for Healthy Housing, slips, trips and falls are the leading cause of unintentional home injury and cause 43% of home injury deaths. The second leading cause of home injury deaths comes from poisoning, at 34%. When chemicals are in reach of children, they pose a serious risk. Carbon monoxide and misuse of medication also are included in this category. 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.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Slips, 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.
What is the source for trips and falls in the home?
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 for tripping and falling?
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.
What are some health impacts that could result in tripping and falling?
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.
What are solutions I can take to prevent trips and falls in my home?
- 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.
Please visit Poison Prevention for more information on accidental poisonings.
Make sure to keep any household cleaners out of reach for children.
What is the leading cause of house fires?
Cooking is the leading cause of fires in the home. House fires are more frequent in the cooler months. All together, 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.
What are major sources of fire in the home?
The five biggest threats for fire in the home are:
- Cooking – especially on the stove-top
- Heating – especially portable space heaters and fireplace
- Smoking – in the home
- Electrical – especially deteriorating electrical cords
- Candles –serious risk when left unattended
Who is at risk for house fires?
Fires put all household occupants at risk. Small children, the elderly and the disabled are at increased risk due to limitations on their ability to escape a house fire.
What actions can I take to prevent and/or be prepared for a house fire?
Some actions you can take to prevent fires include:
- Not leaving the stove-top unattended while cooking
- Making sure portable space heaters have enough space and clothing is not nearby
- Inspect and clean fire chimneys annually
- Do not smoke inside the home near furniture
- Make sure to replace old electric cords so they do not fray and spark
- Do not overload circuits
- Do not leave candles unattended while they burn
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
What is the source for burns and scalding?
According to the National Center for Healthy Housing, bathing and kitchen related accidents are the most common causes of scalds and result in approximately 3,800 injuries each year. Burns and scalds cause 9% of home injury deaths.
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.
What are some solutions I can take to prevent burns and scalds?
- 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 stove-top, 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.
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