In observation of Home Safety Month, the North Dakota Department of Health and emergency services personnel encourage residents to identify and correct hazards in their homes that might cause injury. According to the health department, the home is the second most common location of unintentional fatal injuries in the US; with only motor vehicle crashes accounting for more fatal injuries.
"We see it (injuries sustained at home) frequently," said Lynette Deardurff, registered nurse and trauma program manager for Trinity Health of Minot. "The very young, ages 1 through 4, and those over 70 are the most at risk."
The leading causes of unintentional home injury deaths, Deardurff said, are falls and poisonings.
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Lynette Deardurff, registered nurse and trauma program manager for Trinity Health, shows an example of bars in a shower that can help prevent falls in the home.
"If you have a fall emergency, if you have continuous pain and you're unable to get up, you need to call 9-1-1," she said.
Fall injuries are particularly common in older adults. For prevention, Deardurff recommended making sure stairways are free of clutter and that they have handrails, using grab-rails and non-slip strips in the bathtub, and non-skid bath mats in the bathroom, using night lights and cleaning up spills immediately before someone slips.
While the trauma department sees more home injuries during the summer months, falls remain a consistent injury in the winter because many residents slip on ice, Deardurff said.
N.D. Health Department's injury prevention for older adults
According to the health department, falls and fires are the leading causes of unintentional home injuries and death among adults aged 65 and older. The department offered these general prevention tips:
+ Keep stairs well lit, and tighten any loose handrails
+ Remove loose carpets, cords, and other potential trip hazards.
+ Keep floors cleared and throw rugs slip resistant.
+ Install grab bars in bathrooms.
+ Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside every sleeping area and on every floor of your home.
+ Install a carbon monoxide alarm outside every sleeping area.
+ Keep space heaters away from flammable materials. Hire a professional to check all fuel-burning appliances, including fireplaces, every year.
+ Don't wear loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves near ranges or ovens.
+ Practice an emergency fire escape plan.
+ Don't smoke in bed.
N.D. Dept. of Health's injury prevention for children
According to the health department, the leading cause of unintentional home injuries and death for children younger than 15 include fires and burns, choking and suffocation, drowning and submersion, firearms, and poisoning. The department offered these general prevention tips:
+ Put toxic substances out of the reach of children.
+ Store firearms in locked gun cabinets and ammunition in a different area from the gun.
+ Practice safe cooking habits in and around the stove.
+ Set the temperature of the hot-water heater to 120 F or less.
+ Actively supervise the children at all times.
+ Use the Department of Health's Home Safety Checklist to do a safety evaluation of your home. A copy of the list is available at (www.ndhealth.gov/injury) or by calling 328-4536.
"Another type of fall that can occur happens on ladders," she added. "You need to make sure the ladder is on a solid, flat surface, and we don't always do that. It's also not a good idea to go crawling up a ladder when no-one's around."
Poisonings, another common home injury, should be first addressed by immediately calling the poison control line at 1-800-222-1222.
"The intervention that the poison control line will suggest depends on the type of poisoning. They can direct you what to do right away. We use the poison control line ourselves here at the ER, because they have the latest facts," Deardurff said.
Poisonings commonly happen when children ingest medications, or cleaning products.
"To prevent poisoning from ingestion of pills, keep them in their original container and out of reach of children on a high shelf, and locked up. Keep every day cleaners locked up as well," Deardurff said.
"Often, we have pills right where we can find them, but that makes them easily accessible to children, too. Don't keep pills in your purses, or on bedside tables. Grandma and grandpa should keep them up, too. Kids frequently get into pills in other people's homes. Be careful when you're going to visit," she added.
In the summer, pesticides and anhydrous also becomes a poisoning concern.
"We get very complacent with chemicals and pesticides. Nobody follows the instructions. That's a major thing," Deardurff said.
Individuals might put chemicals in a container other than the original container, or mix chemicals, which can cause confusion when calling the poison control line. Chemicals should be kept in their original containers, and all instructions on the container should be followed.
"Make sure you're following the instructions on the container. Have the proper clothing on, such as goggles, a mask, or gloves whatever is indicated," Deardurff said.
In addition to poisonings and falls, other common home injury concerns should be addressed, she said. Scalds or burns from hot fluids or hot water is another injury the trauma department sees.
To prevent those injuries, Deardurff advocated keeping hot liquids out of a child's reach, because children could pull the liquid down on themselves. Bath and shower temperatures should be checked as well, which can be done with a candy thermometer.
"We prefer to have the water temperature under 120 F," Deardurff said. "Many people turn the temperature up on the water heater, and the water that comes out is way too hot."
This summer, other home injuries to be avoided include grilling and mowing accidents.
"We see a lot of injuries from lawn mowers, either getting ran over, or injuries that result from not checking that the area is free of sticks or something that could shoot out of the mower," Deardurff said.
"We might also see burns, from checking the oil or re-fueling the gas when the mower is still hot," she added.
Deardurff explained that wearing goggles while mowing could prevent eye injury, wearing hearing protection can prevent long term damage to hearing, and not allowing children to ride on riding lawn mowers could prevent falls.
When grilling, it's also important to take steps to prevent fires and burns. Deardurff said the grilling area should be kept free of bags, oven mitts and other flammable items. The grill should be kept at least 10 feet away from the house or shrubs, and a fire extinguisher should be readily available.