By Eric M. Folkens, M.D., Family Medicine,
Bradenton/Lakewood Ranch/Sarasota Urgent Care Walk-In Clinics
Every year, thousands of Americans die in their own homes from unnatural causes. Tens of thousands more suffer injuries, many of them serious and life changing. Sadly, most of these deaths and injuries could have been easily prevented. In this case, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth many, many pounds of cure. Home safety is one of the biggest responsibilities parents and homeowners have, and thankfully, many safety measures are easy to implement. There’s nothing difficult, expensive, or time consuming about minimizing the risks in your home. Here are some ideas and tips for making your home safer for yourself and your family.
Hidden Dangers in the Kitchen
The kitchen has obvious dangers. Stovetops can cause burns. Sharp knives cut flesh easily. Overflowing cupboards cause numerous injuries from falling cookware. Children, obviously, should not be left unattended in the kitchen. Beyond these worries, however, are icebergs of hidden dangers moving secretly around your kitchen.
Food-borne illnesses are becoming more prevalent. They cause thousands of deaths and millions of illnesses each year, and these numbers are only increasing. Work surfaces should be kept free of clutter so they can be cleaned thoroughly and frequently. Anywhere that you prepare raw food is considered a work surface. Refrigerated foods are also vectors for bacteria. It is essential that you clean your refrigerator frequently and remove old food to prevent it contaminating fresh foods.
Cleanliness is paramount in kitchens to prevent infestation. Vermin and insects can cause a number of health problems. They drag their bodies across cooking surfaces and leave feces in many places. Consider natural cures instead of poison. Chemicals should be a last resort as they can contaminate cooking surfaces through the movement of the vermin you are trying to kill.
Some scientists are now warning against a substance called BPA (Bisphenol A). It is contained in polycarbonate plastics. The science on the danger of BPA is still coming in, but many are advocating caution. Some plastics are now being labeled BPA-free. Plastic numbers 3, 6, and 7 are more likely to contain BPA than 1, 2, 4, and 5. Plastics are numbered, usually on the bottom of containers. Avoid putting plastics in the microwave or dishwasher lest chemicals from them leech into food.
Taking precautions and being overly safe is less costly than when someone comes down with a chronic condition or illness. Wash your hands frequently while cooking. Above all, keep your kitchen safe.
Safety with Elderly in Mind
Many people take extra precautions when welcoming children into their home, either their own or the children of friends and family. First-time parents are particularly vigilant about childproofing their homes. Homeowners and renters with elderly parents or visitors to their home would be wise to take a moment to consider their safety as well.
Older people are highly susceptible to falls and can suffer disproportionately. A fall for a person over 55 is more dangerous than a similar fall for a younger person. There are certain precautions you should consider before having an older person reside at your home.
Stairways and hallways are danger areas for the elderly, especially those suffering from limited mobility. Many municipalities have ordinances dealing with the width and steepness of stairs, but many older buildings have their stairways grandfathered in. Stairs should be kept free of objects, and handrails should be installed and securely fastened. These areas should be well lit, so people can see transitions between steps. It is also important that doorways not have raised thresholds.
If there are older people living or staying at your house, it might be advisable to check the safety of your bathroom, too. Tile areas can be made safer with non-skid mats. Bathtubs must have non-skid lining of some kind as they can become slippery easily. It may behoove you to install grab bars near enough to toilets so people can use them to lower themselves gently into place.
Falls are not the only danger to older people in the home. Some elderly relatives and friends need constant assistance. In such cases, an abundance of caution is best. Considering the safety of your guests can save you a lot of grief in the future.
Dangerous Household Chemicals
One of the biggest safety problems in the home is household cleaners. Many families store these in low cabinets and under the kitchen sink, but this is very dangerous. It’s true that virtually all of these products come with childproof caps these days, but it’s also true that many people forget to screw the lids all the way down after use. The caps can also be defective, or the container could get punctured and begin leaking.
For all these reasons, all household cleaning products should be kept on a high shelf where there’s absolutely no chance that children can get to them. Even while taking these precautions, every home should have the number for the poison control center posted somewhere everyone is aware of, such as on the refrigerator, or by the phone, or both. Hopefully you’ll never need it, but if you do, you won’t waste precious minutes looking it up. One thing to consider along the lines of household safety is that more and more companies are manufacturing non-toxic cleaning products for the home. Many of them work just as well or better than the standard products. Some may cost a bit more, but the peace of mind might be well worth the small price difference.
Every year, nearly 20,000 people, almost 400 each and every week, die from injuries that happened at home. Millions and millions more suffer injuries that require medical attention. The main causes of these are falls, poison, fire, choking, and drowning, but most of these injuries and deaths could have easily been prevented.
Should an accident occur, rest assured that the professional and friendly staff at Urgent Care Center is available to provide excellent care ensuring you are seen by a doctor as quickly as possible. Don’t spend extra time and money waiting in the emergency room when there are three Urgent Care Centers staffed by licensed and board certified physicians during extended hours. Walk-ins are welcome and most insurances are accepted.