Safety/Injury Prevention

Injury in HomeHome and recreation-related injuries affect people of all ages, from infants to older adults, and account for about a third of all injury-related emergency department visits.

Some of the leading causes of injuries include drowning, falls, fires and accidental poisoning. While injuries are common, they can be prevented and their consequences reduced.

Below you will find more information on different types of home injury risks, how to keep your family safe, and other helpful resources.

Drownings

Drownings are the leading cause of injury death for young children ages 1 to 4, and three children die every day as a result of drowning.Parents and guardians can play a key role in protecting the children they love from drowning by doing the following:

  • Boy with life jacketLearn life-saving skills.  Everyone should know the basics of swimming (floating, moving through the water) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • Fence it off. Install a four–sided isolation fence, with self–closing and self–latching gates, around backyard swimming pools. This can help keep children away from the area when they aren’t supposed to be swimming. Pool fences should completely separate the house and play area from the pool.
  • Make life jackets a “must.” Make sure kids wear life jackets in and around natural bodies of water, such as lakes or the ocean, even if they know how to swim. Life jackets can be used in and around pools for weaker swimmers too.
  • Be on the look out. When kids are in or near water (including bathtubs), closely supervise them at all times. Adults watching kids in or near water should avoid distracting activities like playing cards, reading books, talking on the phone, and using alcohol or drugs.

Falls – Children

Falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries for all children ages 0 to 19. Every day, approximately 8,000 children are treated in U.S. emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. This adds up to almost 2.8 million children each year.

Parents and caregivers can play a key role in protecting children by doing the following:

  • Child fallingPlay safely. Falls on the playground are a common cause of injury. Check to make sure that the surfaces under playground equipment are safe, soft, and well- maintained (such as wood chips or sand, not dirt or grass).
  • Make your home safer. Use home safety devices, such as guards on windows that are above ground level, stair gates, and guard rails. These devices can help keep a busy, active child from taking a dangerous tumble.
  • Keep sports safe. Make sure your child wears protective gear during sports and recreation. For example, when in-line skating,  use wrist guards, knee and elbow pads, and a helmet. All bicyclists, regardless of age, should wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet every time they ride.
  • Supervision is key. Supervise young children at all times around fall hazards, such as stairs and playground equipment, whether you’re at home or out to play.

Falls – Older Adults

Each year, millions of adults aged 65 and older fall. Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas, and can increase the risk of early death.

Senior with walkerAmong older adults, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries. Men are more likely than women to die from a fall. But rates of fall-related fractures among older women are more than twice those for men (CDC).

Older adults can stay independent and reduce their chances of falling if they:

  • Exercise regularly. It is important that the exercises focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance, and that they get more challenging over time. Tai Chi programs are especially good.
  • Ask their doctor or pharmacist to review their medicines—both prescription and over-the counter—to identify medicines that may cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness or drowsiness.
  • Have their eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and update their eyeglasses to maximize their vision.  Consider getting a pair with single vision distance lenses for some activities such as walking outside.
  • Make their homes safer by reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, adding railings on both sides of stairways, and improving the lighting in their homes.

To lower their hip fracture risk, older adults can:

  • Get adequate calcium and vitamin D—from food and/or from supplements.
  • Do weight bearing exercise.
  • Get screened and, if needed, treated for osteoporosis.

Fires & Burns

Home fires can start and spread quickly, which is why it’s important that all family members are educated on fire safety.

Home firesEvery day, over 300 children ages 0 to 19 are treated in emergency rooms for burn-related injuries and two children die as a result of being burned.

Younger children are more likely to sustain injuries from scald burns that are caused by hot liquids or steam, while older children are more likely to sustain injuries from flame burns that are caused by direct contact with fire.

 

To prevent fires:

  • Be alarmed. Install and maintain smoke alarms in your home—on every floor and near all rooms family members sleep in. Test your smoke alarms once a month to make sure they are working properly.
  • Have an escape plan. Create and practice a family fire escape plan, and involve kids in the planning. Make sure everyone knows at least two ways out of every room and identify a central meeting place outside.
  • Cook with care. Use safe cooking practices, such as never leaving food unattended on the stove. Also, supervise or restrict children’s use of stoves, ovens, or microwaves.Use common sense in the kitchen.
  • Keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn. Make sure you turn them off when you leave the room.
  • Blow out candles and keep matches out of reach. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and always blow them out when you leave the room or before you go to sleep. Teach kids never to play with matches, lighters or fireworks and keep those items out of reach.

To prevent burns:

  • Check water heater temperature. Set your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Infants who aren’t walking yet can’t get out of water that may be too hot, and maintaining a constant thermostat setting can help control the water temperature throughout your home—preventing it from getting too high.
  • Use back burners and oven mitts. Use the back burner of your stove and turn pot handles away from the edge. Use oven mitts or potholders and keep hot foods and liquids away from table and counter edges. Be careful if your oven mitt is wet; when combined with heat, the moisture can cause scalds.
  • Childproof electrical outlets and appliances. Cover electrical outlets so that children are unable to insert metal objects, such as forks or keysKeep an eye on appliances such as irons, curling irons or hair dryers that can heat up quickly or stay warm after use. Unplug these items after you’re done.
  • Install barriers such as safety gates around fireplaces, ovens and furnaces. Make sure your fireplace is protected by a sturdy screen. Remember that glass screens can take a long time to cool down.

Poisonings

Every day, over 300 children in the United States ages 0 to 19 are treated in an emergency department, and two children die, as a result of being poisoned. Child poisoningEveryday items in your home, such as household cleaners and medicines, are often to blame.

Active, curious children will often investigate—and sometimes try to eat or drink—anything that they can get into.

To keep your children safe from accidental poisonings:

  • Lock up medicines and toxic chemicals. Keep these products in their original packaging where children can’t see or get them.
  • Know the number. Put the nationwide poison control center phone number, 1-800-222-1222, on or near every telephone in your home and program it into your cell phone. Call the poison control center if you think a child has been poisoned but they are awake and alert; they can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 911 if you have a poison emergency and your child has collapsed or is not breathing.
  • Read the label. Follow label directions and read all warnings when giving medicines to children.
  • Don’t keep it if you don’t need it. Safely dispose of unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs and over the counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements.You can also turn unwanted medications into local take-back program or during National Drug Take-Back events.

Prescription Drug Overdose

Deaths from drug overdose have been rising steadily over the past two decades and have become the leading cause of injury death in the United States.

Prescription drugsEvery day in the United States, 114 people die as a result of drug overdose, and another 6,748 are treated in emergency departments (ED) for the misuse or abuse of drugs. Nearly 9 out of 10 poisoning deaths are caused by drugs.

Many of these overdose events are related to the nonpharmaceutical use of prescription medications or prescription opioid abuse.

To prevent accidental overdoses:

  • Only take prescription medications that are prescribed to you by a healthcare professional. Misusing or abusing prescription or over-the-counter medications is not a “safe” alternative to illicit substance abuse.
  • Never take larger or more frequent doses of your medications, particularly prescription pain medications, to try to get faster or more powerful effects.
  • Never share or sell your prescription drugs. Keep all prescription medicines (especially prescription painkillers, such as those containing methadone, hydrocodone, or oxycodone), over-the-counter medicines (including pain or fever relievers and cough and cold medicines), vitamins and herbals in a safe place that can only be reached by people who take or give them.
  • Follow directions on the label when you give or take medicines. Read all warning labels. Some medicines cannot be taken safely when you take other medicines or drink alcohol.
  • Keep medicines in their original bottles or containers.
  • Monitor the use of medicines prescribed for children and teenagers, such as medicines for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.1
  • Dispose of unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs.You can take them to local take-back programs or during National Drug Take-Back events.

Suffocation/Choking Hazards

Suffocation occurs when a person is unable to breath. Infants are most at risk for suffocation while sleeping. Toddlers are more likely to suffocate from choking on food and other objects, like small toys.Baby2

Parents and caregivers can help protect their children from suffocation by doing the following:

  • Create a safe sleeping environment. Place infants on their backs on a firm surface every time they are laid down for sleep. The safest place for infants to sleep is in a crib or bassinet—not in the same bed as parents. Keep soft objects like stuffed animals, blankets, and loose bedding out of cribs. Do not put objects such as mobiles above cribs.
  • Stay safe during meal and play time. Cut or break age-appropriate food into small bite-size pieces. Always supervise infants or young children during mealtime. Encourage children to chew their food thoroughly and to swallow it before talking or laughing. Also, children should not eat while playing or running. Read the age recommendations and choking hazard labels on toy packaging to determine suitable toys for children.
  • Learn basic first aid and CPR. Knowing how to safely remove food and small objects from the airway and how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can save a child’s life. Learn basic first aid and CPR and get re-certified every 2 years.

Additional Resources