As an ER doctor at the largest and busiest emergency department in the nation’s capital, I see patients on a daily basis with a variety of conditions, from broken bones to cuts to those with serious or life-threatening symptoms, such as heart attacks and strokes.
And as a mother of a two-year-old, safety is of the utmost importance to me and my family, especially in and around my home. The truth is that a large number of accidents do occur in our own homes because we often overlook household appliances or other everyday items that can potentially cause serious injury.
Below is a list of 10 common household items that can pose significant health and safety threats to adults and children. Read though the list. And ask yourself, "Do I really need these items?" If you do, please use them responsibly. When appropriate, keep them locked up and out of reach and out of sight of children. I hope this list will be helpful in keeping you and your loved ones safe at home.
1. Unused medications: There are a host of medicines that are “one pill killers” in children; particularly heart and blood pressure medications as well as sedative and pain medications. If you are not using a medication, dispose of it properly or store it up and out of reach. Keep all medications in child-resistant packaging.
2. Gas space heaters: They can produce the toxic gas carbon monoxide, which can poison an entire household. Using electric heaters and installing carbon monoxide monitors can mitigate the risk. Make sure to check the batteries in carbon monoxide and smoke detectors when you change your clocks in the spring and fall.
3. Trampolines: Most trampoline accidents happen when people fall off or land wrong while jumping. The most common injuries are extremity fractures that may require surgical treatment. Although surrounding nets can prevent a ground impact from a fall, injury can still occur by landing improperly on the trampoline itself. Children may also injure themselves if they get too close to the spring connectors or if they land in between them.
4. Swimming pools: Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1 to 4. Seventy-five percent of all drowning occur in home swimming pools. Adults can also drown or injure themselves when swimming is combined with alcohol. In addition, improper diving can lead to head and neck injuries. To prevent accidents, stay within arm’s reach of a child at all times in and around the pool, make sure the pool is fenced in, learn how to swim and learn CPR.
5. Nicotine products: We all know the dangers of smoking cigarettes, but recently, “vaping” has become very popular. Electronic cigarettes vaporize a very concentrated nicotine fluid as an alternative to smoking. Although there are fewer carcinogens in electronic cigarettes, these products contain several solvents and we don’t know the long-term health effects of vaping. E-cigarettes are potentially fatal in the hands of children. The liquid in a single cartridge contains enough nicotine to be lethal to a small child and the flavored products are particularly appealing to this age group.
6. Choking hazards: Hot dogs, grapes, carrots, apples, nuts, popcorn, or hard candy can be choked on easily. Either avoid these foods or cut them up into small pieces to avoid the risk of choking or aspiration.
7. Pods: Laundry pods or dishwasher pods are more concentrated than traditional detergents, which contain large amounts of water and are less toxic. Pod exposures can result in skin and eye irritation, coughing, choking, respiratory distress, and even death. These outcomes are rarely noted with traditional products.
8. Drain cleaners: These household chemicals are caustic and can cause severe chemical burns to the esophagus or airway, even with a single sip. Discard unused products or keep it in a secure area.
9. Antifreeze and windshield wiper fluids: These products can appeal to children because of their color and sweet flavor and can be toxic in as little as a few sips. Because of their appealing taste, these fluids may also poison pets. The most common toxicities are renal failure or blindness. Another tip is to not transfer any chemical products into drinking cups. This is a recipe for a mix up.
10. Button batteries: Because of their small size and shiny appearance, they can be easily ingested by toddlers. In as little as two hours, these batteries can cause severe caustic burns to the esophagus, which can lead to lifelong disability, or even death. Children often do not have any symptoms until the damage has been done. If you have a product that requires a button battery, be sure to place them in a secure area.
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