We all want our homes to be a safe, comfortable and healthy havens. However, home injuries cause as many as 20,000 deaths, 7 million disabling injuries, and 20 million hospital trips in the United States, each year. The good news is that home injury risks can be reduced through awareness and preparedness.
Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know: Managing Some Troublesome Household Emergencies
Common household injuries reportedly spike during times of emergencies (like during winter and spring weather) and added home project work. Here are some common troubling issues that can occur during these times and solutions:
- Power outage. Personal preparedness can reduce the impact of falls and spoilage of foods. While indoors, use flashlights in the dark, not candles to minimize the risk of a fire. Keep your refrigerator closed as much as possible and consume perishable food first. Make sure to throw out unsafe food (in particular meat products) that have been exposed to temperatures greater than 40oF for more than 2 hours.
And, for those who depend on electric medical equipment, such as oxygen, sleep apnea machinery, home dialysis, power wheelchairs or scooters, it is of particular importance to ensure you have a back-up plan for alternative sources of power.
Heating loss can also result from a power outage.
Experts underscore that the first step to staying warm can be summed up in a single word: conservation. You can trap the heat in your home by placing towels at the base of doors and keepings doors closed as much as possible (opening an exterior door can drop the inside temperature by up to 10oF!). And, inside wear layers, including hats and gloves. Electric space heaters powered by a generator and wood fireplaces can be additional sources of heat but carelessness, neglect, or improper use can cause fires and even death if safety isn’t a priority. Know the proper use and be especially careful to keep children and pets away from these sources.
Carbon monoxide (CO).
A byproduct of burning fuel, CO is produced not just by fires, but also common household items such as portable generators, charcoal grills, oil-burning furnaces, and cars. A gas, it’s colorless and odorless, making it silent, and all the more deadly. Carbon monoxide detectors work much like your fire or smoke alarm by sounding an alarm when carbon monoxide is detected. They can help keep your home and family safe.
Basement flooding is an utter nuisance, plain and simply.
But did you know it’s also a serious health and safety risk? Standing water should be pumped out as soon as possible to avoid harmful bacteria; wear waterproof rubber boots and avoid touching or using electrical devices so you don’t incur shock or electrocution. Properly clean, treat, or discard mold- and mildew-infected items. They can cause a number of health issues including throat, skin, and eye irritation, a stuffy nose, wheezing, or coughing.
Broken glass is sharp and can pierce skin, causing painful cuts.
When cleaning-up from a surface, make sure to protect yourself by being properly dressed, wearing shoes and rubber gloves. If you don’t have gloves, use tongs to remove the large shards—placing them in a container (e.g., plastic, tin) that is thick enough so that the glass doesn’t cut through before disposing of it. Alternatively, layers of newspaper can be used to wrap it before disposing of it. To remove smaller pieces, sweep, vacuum, use a wet paper towel, wet wipes, or duct tape. And, move kids, pets, and others out of the area while cleaning and avoid kneeling so you don’t cut your yourself.
Putting away holiday decorations and preparing for home projects, the ladder is a tool, and one that can be dangerous. If you feel tired or dizzy, stay off; do not use ladders in high winds or storms; wear clean slip-resistant shoes (shoes with leather soles are not appropriate); inspect the ladder before using it to make sure it is in good working condition; place the ladder on firm level ground; ensure that any type of slippery condition is not present at the base or top support points; and block, lock or guard doors if a ladder is in front of it.
These are just a few key concerns and yes, it’s called an emergency as sometimes no matter how prepared you are as a homeowner, things happen. Remain calm and remember that preparedness are steps to stay safe during, and after emergencies.
Dr. Nina Radcliff is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community, at large. She is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures.
She completed medical school and residency training at UCLA and has served on the medical faculty at The University of Pennsylvania. She is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist. Author of more than 200 textbook chapters, research articles, medical opinions and reviews; she is often called upon by media to speak on medical, fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle topics impacting our lives, today.