Did you know that the common phrase, “Accidents happen,” is actually part of a Charles Dickens quote? Yep, in the early 19th century, Charles Dickens wrote, “Accidents will happen in the best regulated families.”
Nearly 170 years later, these words are still true. Accidents happen—but many of them simply don’t have to!
The prevalence of accidents
Accidental injuries are the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., exceeded only by heart disease, cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases. Nonfatal injuries impact millions of Americans. In just one year, 40.6 million people—about 1-in-8—seek medical attention for accidental injuries.1 The total economic impact of unintentional injuries is estimated at $886.4 billion a year—about $7,100 per U.S. household.1
Home sweet home?
Accidents can happen nearly anywhere at any time, but many accidents happen at the place where we should feel the most safe and secure: at home.
According to the National Safety Council, some top causes of accidental injuries that often occur at home include: poisoning, falls, choking and drowning.1 However, with some awareness, education and lifestyle changes, you can help make your home safer for your family.
8 ways to help prevent accidents at home
1. Rest is best
A good night’s sleep does more than rest your muscles, bones and organs. It also rests your mind, keeping your senses sharper and more alert to hazards. For optimal rest, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, allowing at least seven to eight hours for sleep. If you’re sleepy during the day, take a short break to stretch or walk outside. Break up tasks and activities to give your muscles and mind a quick timeout.
2. Stress less
When you’re stressed or tired, you’re more easily distracted. You’re more likely lose your footing on the stairs or trip on the rug. When you feel your stress rising, pause to take some slow, deep breaths. Step outside or head to the gym to exercise. Let yourself indulge in your favorite relaxing activities, like reading, yoga, walking, bike riding or spending time with family and friends. Talk to your health care provider if you can’t find relief from stress.
3. Just say no
Alcohol and drugs dull your senses, blur your focus and slow your reaction time. Plus, anyone under the influence can have misguided confidence and take unnecessary risks. To avoid accidents, simply avoid drugs and limit how much alcohol you drink. If you suspect that you or a family member has a problem, contact your doctor or a local assistance program for advice.
4. Manage your meds
If you take medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs can alter your alertness, coordination and judgment. Remember that some medications could impact how well you handle everyday activities at home, like mowing the lawn or vacuuming the stairs.
5. Beware of poisons
More than 90% of poisoning accidents happen at home and involve drugs, medicines, other solid and liquid substances, and gases and vapors.3 Poisoning deaths have increased significantly over the last 15 years, due primarily to a vast increase in the use of opioid pain relievers.2
Perform your own property audit for potential poisons:
- Use radon detectors to check for toxic gas.
- Plug in a carbon monoxide detector to check for this invisible killer.
- Is anyone in your home being exposed to lead? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 4 million U.S. households have high lead levels.3
- Keep dangerous household products—like medicines, batteries, cleaners and pesticides—far out of children’s reach.
- Follow label directions and dosages when taking or administering any medicine. When in doubt, call your doctor’s office.
- Safely dispose of all outdated or unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs
IF YOU SUSPECT A PROBLEM
Call Poison Control at (800) 222-1222. The centers are staffed 24/7 to help if you suspect that someone has ingested something dangerous. Call 911 when someone is unconscious or not breathing.
6. Prevent Falls
People of all ages are injured or die from falls. Falls are responsible for nearly 9.2 million trips to the emergency room each year. Falls also result in about 33,381 fatalities in a year. The risk of falling—and suffering fall-related injuries—rises with age.4 Everyone can reduce the chance of falling by following these tips:
- Take care on the stairs. Equip stairways at home with a firm, secure rail.
- Use the railing each time you climb or descend the stairs.
- Tack, repair or replace loose carpets, rugs or stair treads.
- Don’t carry more than what’s comfortable. Hold items close to your body, balanced in both arms. And make sure you can still see where you’re going.
- Get your vision checked regularly.
- Maintain good health. With strong, flexible muscles, you can keep your balance or recover from a slip.
- Watch your weight. Extra pounds can impact your balance.
- Make sure playground equipment is well-designed and maintained, with a safe landing surface.
- Keep your home safer with guards on windows that are above ground level. Install gates at the top and bottom of stairways.
- Protect young athletes with wrist guards, helmets and knee and elbow pads.
7. Reduce your risk of choking
Choking is caused when an object fully or partially blocks a person’s airway. When inhaled, items like food, coins, buttons and small toys can prevent proper breathing. When adults choke, they’re usually able to cough out the object without any medical intervention. But young children have an immature anatomy and tend to put items in their mouths, putting them at much higher risk of choking.
In the U.S. today, choking is the fourth-leading cause of all unintentional injuries at home or in the community. Although people of all ages can choke, children younger than 3 and older adults have the greatest risk.4
To reduce the risk of choking:
- Avoid talking while eating.
- Watch children carefully when they’re eating and playing.
- Keep small toys, food and objects out of children’s reach. Round objects like balls, marbles and hard candy are the most dangerous.
- Learn how to provide early treatment for children and adults who are choking.
8. Minimize drowning risk
More than 3,600 people die from drowning accidents each year in the U.S. About a third of drowning victims are young children and teens.4 As with other types of accidents, drowning is highly preventable.
To reduce your family’s risks:
- If you have a home swimming pool, install a four-sided fence with self-closing, self-latching gates.
- Protect children from other nearby water features, like ponds, fountains, spas and even bathtubs.
- Any time you’re around a body of water, be sure all young people and non-swimmers wear a life jacket.
- Become certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and keep your certification current. If you’re able to administer CPR to a choking victim, you can help the person survive with little or no brain damage.
When accidents happen
Even people who are safety minded can suffer an accident and require medical care. If you’re treated for an accidental injury, you could face unpleasant surprises.
Did you know, for example, that worker’s compensation covers only those injuries that occur on the job? And that major medical plans most likely cover only routine medical expenses for accidents or disability? You’re fully responsible for remaining costs like copays, transportation, physical therapy, emergency room care and a host of other expenses. How would you handle the unexpected expenses?
A quality accident policy can be a great complement to your high-deductible medical plan. For more information about accidental injury insurance, contact your Washington National agent or call (800) 525-7662.
1National Safety Council, Injury Facts 2017 Edition, 2017.
2National Safety Council, Prevent Poisoning and Drug Overdose, nsc.org, accessed July 2018
3National Safety Council, Lead Poisoning Is Not Yesterday’s News, nsc.org, accessed July 2018
4National Safety Council, Injury Facts 2017 Edition, 2017.