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Common Home Hazards

More than 18,000 Americans die annually from home accidents — and approximately 21 million medical visits each year add up to roughly $220 billion. Minimize the risk and keep your family safe from these common home hazards:

Falling. Falls are the leading cause of home accident deaths and make up one-third of all fatalities. Install safety gates at the top and bottom of staircases to keep children safe. Older adults should consider moving to a home without stairs or installing a stairlift to reduce falls. Wall-to-wall carpet (not area rugs) in the bathroom can help prevent slips and falls. Use a rubber mat on shower floors, and lay out a mat or towel on the bathroom floor when stepping out of the shower or bath. Adding handrails in the shower or bath are also a good idea.

Poisoning. Accidental poisoning is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S., killing nearly 5,000 people annually. Store cleaning products and chemicals in out-of-reach areas from children, or use a childproof lock on drawers and cupboards. In garages, store pesticides and paint on high shelves or in locked units. For kitchen safety, don’t leave children alone in the kitchen, label unmarked containers and don’t store non-foods in food containers. Keep the poison control center information visibly posted in the kitchen, as well as any household members’ allergies.

Fires. Fire hazards are the third-leading cause of fatalities in the U.S. with 3,000 deaths each year. Install smoke detectors in the kitchen, bedrooms and basement. Test alarms regularly and replace batteries twice per year. Some home alarms detect smoke automatically and call the local fire department in the event nobody can call for help. Always use caution when cooking and don’t leave a pan of hot oil unattended. Don’t put out pan fires with water; instead, use a damp towel. During the holidays, unplug lights – particularly Christmas tree lights – before going to bed to reduce the risk of faulty lights igniting.

Stoves. Try to keep curious children out of the kitchen when using the stove, both to prevent distractions and to reduce the risk of injury. Don’t let children play with the stove, even if it is off. When cooking, use the burners at the back of the stove that are out of reach for children, and turn handles inward so they aren’t easy to grab or knock over. Also, check that your stove is properly installed so it doesn’t fall over.

Carbon monoxide. Unlike gas, carbon monoxide is odorless. Common sources of carbon monoxide range from gas stoves or dryers, to gas-powered vehicles such as lawn mowers and oil, wood or gas furnaces. Install carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home and test them regularly. Check heaters annually to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Ensure there’s good air flow when running gas-powered vehicles or tools. Don’t run your car in the garage, even if the garage door is open.

Drowning. Drowning is the leading cause of injury or death for children ages one to four. Never leave babies or children alone during bathtime, even to answer a ringing phone or doorbell. Keep electrical items out of the bathroom when children are present. Keep toilet lids down. Fence off bodies of water, including pools or ponds, and always supervise swimming children.

Sharp objects. Lock drawers that contain graters, kitchen knives and other sharp tools. Use protective covering on blades when storing knives. Lock away gardening tools in a shed or somewhere that isn’t easily accessible for children.

Choking and suffocation. Choking is the leading cause of death for infants and the fourth leading cause of accidental home injury deaths in the U.S. Put child locks on air-tight spaces (like refrigerators) so children can’t crawl in and get stuck. Store plastic bags out of reach. Cut children’s food into small pieces to help prevent choking. Hard foods that aren’t cut into smaller pieces or foods like whole grapes that a child might swallow whole shouldn’t be given to children under four years old. Tie down window cords, or purchase cordless blinds to help prevent strangulation.

Additional resources:

Adapted from Staysafe.org and Safehome.org