Most Injuries are Preventable

Most injuries for which people present to the Emergency Room (ER) are preventable. Tips to prevent falls, drowning and accidental poisoning are discussed below.

Falls

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 800,000 people are treated in the ER for fall injuries each year, most commonly for hip fractures or head injuries. One out of five falls result in serious injuries like broken bones and head injuries.

Every year, 2.8 million older people (65 and older) are treated in the ER due to fall-related injuries. At least 300,000 older people are hospitalized each year for hip fractures; 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falling.

The medical cost of fall injuries is $31 billion annually, with ER costs accounting for two thirds of that amount.

Fall Prevention Tips

There are simple steps you can take to prevent yourself from falling.

Talk to Your Doctor

  • Speak with your doctor to determine your risk of falling and what steps you can take to prevent falling.
  • Review with your doctor both your prescribed and over-the-counter medications to determine whether any of them may cause you to feel tired or dizzy.
  • Ask whether taking vitamin D supplements would be helpful.

Do Strength and Balance Exercises

  • Perform exercises that will improve your balance and increase your leg strength, such as Tai Chi or yoga.

Have Your Eyes Checked

  • Have your eyes checked at least once a year by an eye doctor and update your eyeglasses' prescription strength as needed.
  • Consider getting a pair of distance glasses for outdoor activities like walking if you use progressive lenses or bifocals. Progressive and bifocal lenses can sometimes make objects seem closer or further than they actually are.

Make Your Home Safer

  • Remove or put away objects that could make you trip.
  • Have grab bars installed both inside and outside your shower or tub, as well as next to the toilet.
  • Make sure all flights of stairs have railings on both sides of the stairs.
  • Ensure your home is bright enough for you to walk and see safely; add more lights or brighter light bulbs if needed.

Drowning

An average of 3,536 fatal accidental drownings occur in the US each year (excluding boat-related drownings), or about 10 deaths a day (CDC). Boat-related accidents account for another 332 drowning deaths each year. Children 14 and younger account for one in five people who die from drowning; for every one child who dies from drowning, another five need ER care for nonfatal injuries.

More than half the people treated in the ER for drowning require hospitalization or transfer to another facility, compared to a hospitalization rate of 6 percent for all other unintentional injuries. Nonfatal drownings can cause severe brain damage like memory loss and learning disabilities, or even a permanent vegetative state.

Drowning Prevention Tips

  • Adults should supervise young children when they are in the bath, and supervise all children who are swimming or playing in water.
  • Have a swim buddy when swimming, and swim where a lifeguard is present if possible.
  • Individuals with seizure disorders should have one-on-one supervision around water.
  • Learn how to swim. Giving young children formal swimming lessons may prevent them from drowning in the future.
  • Learn CPR, which can save a life while waiting for paramedics to arrive.
  • Use life jackets as safety devices; toys like water wings and noodles are not safety devices.
  • Do not drink alcohol when participating in water activities or while supervising children.
  • Don't let swimmers hold their breath under water for a long period of time, which could cause them to pass out and drown.
  • Know the local weather forecast before swimming or boating. Thunderstorms with lightning can be deadly.

Poisoning

A poison is any substance that causes your body harm if too much is eaten, inhaled, injected or absorbed. Unintentional poisoning occurs when too much of a substance is accidentally given or taken and causes a person harm.

Poisoning Prevention Tips

  • Store all medicines and household products in an area that children cannot reach or see.
  • Do not misuse or abuse prescribed or over-the-counter medications, particularly by taking larger or more frequent doses.
  • Do not share or sell prescription drugs.
  • Keep all drugs in a safe place where children and teenagers cannot reach them.
  • Always read the labels of household chemicals that may be poisonous and keep them in their original containers.
  • Wear protective clothing if using pesticides or other chemicals.
  • Open a window or use a fan when using cleaning products.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention