Did you know that the home is the second most common place of unintentional fatal injuries in the United States, accounting for 20 percent of injury deaths? Did you know that most accidents occur at home? Were you aware that most of these accidents are preventable? Every day in homes across America, 55 people die and another 58,000 are injured and need medical care.

It is important that your home is as safe as possible. An accident or injury can occur in any part of your home; however, there are many simple things you can do to help save lives and prevent injuries. The following are some suggestions to prevent fires and burns, falls, poisonings, drowning and choking or suffocation — the five leading causes of unintentional home injury and death.

To prevent fires, install smoke alarms throughout the house; stay near the stove when cooking; never smoke in bed; keep space heaters a safe distance (about 3 feet) from items that can catch fire; don’t overload outlets and extension cords; and place fire extinguishers in the kitchen and other rooms.

To prevent falls, never go up or down stairs carrying items that could block your vision or affect your balance; close cabinet doors and drawers when not in use; make sure stairs and steps are clear and well lit; use handrails on stairs; and if toddlers live in or visit your home, use baby gates at top and bottom of stairs.

To prevent poisonings, lock poisons, medications and cleaning supplies in a secure place where children cannot reach and do not mix cleaning supplies. This can cause severe respiratory issues and in some cases death. Install carbon monoxide detectors near sleeping areas and call a poison control center if someone takes poison (800-222-1222).

To prevent drowning, put up a high fence around your pool and spas, if young children live in and/or visit your home and stay near children when near water — even buckets of water. A child can drown in as much as an inch of water in just a few minutes. Keep water at or below 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent burns and children should always wear life vests while at the pool or beach.

To prevent choking or suffocation, never let kids run, play sports or ride in the car with gum, candy or lollipops in their mouths. Discourage children, particularly school-aged children, from the habit of keeping the cap of a pen in their mouth while they write and sit when eating and chew thoroughly. Swallow food before talking or laughing.

Be aware of foods (especially small foods such as peanuts), balloons, coins, etc. which might be easily accessible to small hands. Toddlers often pick up crumbs or bits of fluff off the floor and put them in their mouth. Be sure to vacuum and keep floors clean; be sure to read all manufacturers’ food labels carefully to determine choking risks; and clip the loops in window cords and place them up high and out of the reach of children

In general, having a safe home may seem overwhelming, but it is absolutely necessary. Start with these general tips on your journey toward making your home a safe home.

Other important safety measures:

  •  Keep phones near your bed and places you most often sit.
  •  Keep emergency phone list updated (parents’ cell and work numbers, doctors’ numbers, family and neighbor’s numbers), accessible and near phones.
  •  Buy a first aid kit.
  •  Talk with household members about exit strategies in case of an emergency.
  •  Learn CPR and Heimlich Maneuver (include training for sitters).

MARSHA O. PARKER is the Christian County extension agent for family and consumer sciences. She can be reached at 270-886-6328.

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