Identifying Hazards at home

The word “home” typically conjures up feelings of warmth, safety, and physical security. While purchasing a home, or renting an apartment, can be financially stressful, it’s worth it if you can achieve some combination of these feelings.
The problem is that we do not often make the home safe and secure for our families. A comprehensive study by the Home Safety Council found that home injuries cause 21 million yearly medical visits and almost 20,000 deaths, 2,000 of which are children.
These figures are not shocking when you consider that 46% of homeowners in developed countries have not done a single thing in their homes to prevent home injuries. While it’s easy to blame laziness, 42% of people haven’t made any improvements simply because they’re just not sure what to do. You could only imagine what happen in this part of the world!
The meaning of the word hazard can be confusing. Often dictionaries do not give specific definitions or combine it with the term “risk”. For example, one dictionary defines hazard as “a danger or risk” which helps explain why many people use the terms interchangeably.

Basically, a hazard can cause harm or adverse effects (to individuals as health effects or to home as property losses).

“The home is where people feel comfortable and secure, but constant awareness is the key to keeping families safe,” says Nancy Nord, the commissioner of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Educating yourself enough to kick-start your personal awareness of home safety is not difficult. Identify the biggest hazards and deal with them first. In the process, you will be able to identify and deal with dangers that you never even realized existed.

Making your home safe is a process that will never be finished. That’s partly because households are always changing. Your home’s safety needs will change as your family ages, as your home ages, as you get more stuff, and even as the seasons change. While the process can seem intimidating, vigilance is the best gift that you can give your loved ones.

These four areas are the best place for most homeowners to start their quest to make their home safer. Below, we have expanded on each topic.

1) Falls:
The simplest of hazards ends up being one of the worst. And as you would suspect, falls are worse for young children and older adults. Very few deaths from falls occur in adults under 60. For children, the most severe falls are general associated with three products: baby walkers, windows, and play equipment including trampolines. Falls down stairs have been implicated in 75% -96% of baby walker-related falls.

Here are a few things that you can do to prevent people in your home from falling: 
Put window guards on all windows. Put soft, protective surfaces under play equipment. Pay special attention to staircases. Make sure that they have handrails, are well lighted, do not have any loose carpeting, and are always clear of toys and other items.
Use safety gates both at the top and bottom of staircases if children are in the house.
If you have a dark basement, install a light on the staircase and paint your bottom step a bright color to make it more visible.
Make your shower safe: use non-slip rubber mats and install extra rails or grab bars if necessary. Also, make sure that the existing rails and other supports are in good condition and can support your weight.
Make sure that you always use (and have) sturdy step stools when getting things in the kitchen or out of closets.

2) Poisoning:

While we mostly think of poisoning as something that happens to children when they get into cleaning supplies and other household products, it’s something that actually affects people of all ages. You would probably be surprised to hear that most unintentional deaths by poisoning in the home are due to the following:
Heroin, Appetite depressants, Anesthetics , Amphetamines, Caffeine, Antidepressants, Alcohol, and Motor vehicle exhaust gas.
Most of these methods of unintentional poisoning are for the most part self-inflicted and can only resolved by dealing with a person’s underlying chemical dependency issues. That said, effective prevention efforts generally focus on keeping poison out of the hands of children. While adults have the highest rates of fatal poisonings, children under 5 have the largest rates of non-fatal poisoning.

Here are some of the things that children are most often poisoned by:
Household and cleaning products, Personal care and beauty products, Medicines, Vitamins, Plants, Lead, Carbon monoxide.

Here are a few things that you can do to prevent accidental poisonings in your home: 
Place your chemicals high up on shelves rather than down low under kitchen and bathroom sinks where people commonly put them. If possible, store them out in a garden shed outside of the house.
If you have to put chemicals in low cabinets, use baby proof locks and be sure that you can properly close the doors.
Never put household cleaners in old drink bottles or food containers that might confuse a child.
Get children and pets out of a room before you use pesticides or other chemicals.
Always close the packaging on a medication or chemical if you are interrupted by the phone or the doorbell. Many poisonings happen when an adult leaves the room for a minute.
Be aware of where all of the medications in your home are, especially if you have visitors who might leave them in an open purse or bag.
Get rid of any old “watch” type batteries as children can easily swallow them. Consider getting rid of any toys or gadgets that use them.
What should you do if someone does get poisoned?
Call your doctor immediately!

3) Fires and Burns:
As with poisonings and falls, the death rate is highest amongst senior citizens and children under the age of five—noticing a pattern here?
And while you may just be thinking that burns just come from open flames, a huge percentage of burns are actually caused by hot water.

Here are a few things that you can do to prevent fires and burns in your home:
Use the back burners on the stove when possible. Children can’t reach them and there’s less of a chance of a hot pot getting knocked off of the stove.
Keep candles and other open flames out of reach of children.

According to Meri-K Appy, the president of the US Home Safety Council, “Cooking mishaps are the number one cause of fires [and they often happen] when the cook leaves the stove unattended or becomes distracted.” That said, stay focused in the kitchen and never walk away from a pot that is in use.

Install smoke alarms throughout your home. Regularly test the batteries in your smoke alarm to be sure that it works. Of homes that have smoke alarms, 65% of the homes have non-working alarms. Most often this is simply because of a worn out battery.

Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen.
Keep clothes irons and curling irons out of reach of children and don’t balance them precariously on counters or ironing boards. Teach children that irons and curling irons can remain hot even after they have been unplugged.
Don’t cook and hold a small baby or child at the same time.
Don’t eat or drink anything hot while a baby or small child is sitting on your lap.

What to do if there is a fire?
For kitchen fires: Always keep the pot lid handy. In the event of a fire, pop the lid back on the pot to prevent the fire from spreading. Baking soda is also effective in stopping a fire (it deprives the fire of oxygen).
For whole house fires: Have an escape plan and discuss it with everyone who lives there. Choose a meeting spot outside of the home so that you can meet up and be sure that everyone has made it out safely.

How to treat a burn
If it is a first-degree burn where only the first layer of skin has been affected, do the following:
Hold it under cool water or place it in cool water for 10-15 minutes to reduce swelling. Do not ice it.
Loosely wrap the wound in a sterile gauze bandage.
Take an over-the-counter pain medication if necessary.
For all other burns, seek medical attention immediately.

4) Choking and Suffocation:
According to the US Home Safety Council, obstructed airway injuries are the fourth leading cause of unintentional home injury death. In fact, unintentional choking and suffocation is the leading cause of death for infants under the age of one.
The three main types of obstructed airway injuries are:

Suffocation: when the nose and mouth are obstructed by an external item like a plastic bag. Because they have limited mobility, infants are at a huge risk for suffocation. 60% of infant suffocation occurs in beds and cribs when an infant’s face becomes buried in soft bedding or a pillow or an adult rolls on top of them.

Choking: when something blocks the airways internally.
This is usually from bits of food or parts of toys. Children, who don’t always chew their food properly, are especially at risk for choking on small, round foods that perfectly block the airway.

Strangulation: when there is some sort of external compression around the airway from an object like the chord from a blind.
Children easily get things wrapped around their necks like drawstrings, ribbons, necklaces, pacifier strings, and window blind cords. An average of one child a month dies due to strangulation from a window chord.
Children can also easily become strangled by openings that trap their heads like spaces in furniture, cribs, playground equipment, and strollers.
Here are a few things that you can do to prevent choking and suffocation in your home:

Suffocation:
Don’t place an infant facedown on a soft surface like a waterbed, comforter, or pillow or on a mattress that is covered in plastic.
Keep your infant’s crib free of soft items like blankets, pillows, bumpers, and stuffed animals.
Purchase a crib mattress that fits snugly without any spaces on the sides where your baby can get stuck. Also, make sure that the sheets fit the mattress snugly and won’t get wrapped around your baby’s head.
An infant should not sleep in an adult’s bed, especially if adults are in it. Infants should also not sleep in the same bed as other children.
Make sure that crib bars are spaced so that a child cannot get his or her head stuck in-between them.
Infants should also not sleep on couches, chairs, or other soft surfaces.
Keep all plastic bags out of reach of children. That includes shopping bags and dry cleaning bags.
Keep uninflated balloons out of reach of young children and dispose of the pieces if they break.

Choking:

Have kids sit and chew their food thoroughly when eating so that they are less likely to swallow food whole. During adult parties, make sure that nuts and other foods are quickly cleaned up and inaccessible.
Make sure that kids under four don’t have access to hard, smooth foods that can block their airway like nuts, raw carrots, popcorn, etc.. Also be careful with soft foods like cheese cubes, hot dogs, and grapes. Make sure to always cut them into small pieces.
Regularly, get down on your hands and knees to inspect play areas for small choking hazards that are within grabbing range like pieces of toys, coins, balloons, balls, batteries, jewelry, etc.
Frequently check toys for loose or broken parts.

Strangulation:

Make sure that all window treatment cords are tied down and that the ends are cut so that they do not end in a loop. Better yet, replace them with cordless designs.
Don’t put necklaces or headbands on your infant.
Cut all drawstrings out of your child’s hoods, jackets, waistbands, etc..
Don’t leave babies unattended in strollers as they can become tangled in the straps and strangle themselves.
Make sure that an infant child cannot get his or her head stuck between the slats of their crib. Also make sure that mattress and bedding fits snugly.
Don’t hang things like bags or purses on a crib.
Always remove your infant’s bib after mealtimes.

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