Leading Causes of Unintentional Injury and How to Prevent Them

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June is National Safety Month, and for its third week the National Safety Council is highlighting the dangers of unintentional death and injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control, unintentional injuries are a major leading cause of injury-related death in the United States, accounting for more than 136,000 deaths each year.

Many of those deaths are small children and the elderly, people who are either more easily distracted and less physically able. Their deaths could be prevented though by implementing a few simple solutions for everyday activities that have the potential to be quite dangerous.

The following is a list of some of the leading causes of unintentional injury and the simple solutions that can be employed to prevent them.

Distracted Walking

Today, smartphones have everyone looking down more frequently than when the first cell phones were introduced decades ago. This distraction has led to an increase in injuries while people are out walking. To wit, distracted walking has caused more than 11,000 injuries since 2000, according to the NSC.

Distracted walking is easily preventable, though. If a person checks their texts and emails before they start walking, they can avoid staring at their phone while in motion. Alternatively, if a person gets a message while they are walking, they can stop and step aside to address it. Most importantly, a person should always look up and both ways before crossing the road to avoid being struck by a motor vehicle.

Slips and Falls

Slipping and falling is a major cause of death in the U.S. Of those who unintentionally fall and die as a result, the overwhelming majority are elderly. Death only occurs in a small percentage of slips and falls, but serious injuries like broken bones and head injuries are fairly common. The CDC estimates that as many as 2.5 million senior citizens are injured in falls each year, with one in five resulting in a serious injury.

The best way to prevent an elderly person from falling is for them to participate in a physical activity that will help them with their balance, according to the CDC. However, not all elderly people are capable of doing so, and for them there are things that can be done to “fall proof” their homes. For instance, adding a grab-bar inside and outside the shower, as well as next to the toilet, will provide assistance in some of the most dangerous situations. Similarly, placing a non-skid mat in the shower and, installing railings on either side of the stairs, will also help prevent falls. Finally, making sure each room is well lit should make it easier to identify objects on the floor that are potential stumbling blocks.

Accidental Drowning

About 10 people die each day from unintentional drowning, two of whom are children under the age of 14, according to the CDC. Even when someone drowns and it is not fatal, they can still require hospitalization, and are at risk of severe brain damage and other long-term disabilities. The best way to prevent drowning is to take part in formal swimming lessons. Being able to swim is the best defense against drowning, after all.

For younger children constant supervision is required around pools and in bathtubs, but even the most diligent parents can be distracted for just a moment. The best way to prevent a child from getting into a pool unsupervised is a four-sided fence. It should completely separate the pool from the yard, and with a self-latching gate it will prevent children from entering the pool area without adults’ knowledge.

Fires and Burns

Fire and burn deaths used to occur more frequently than they do today. The use of fire detectors and fire-escape plans have made it easier than ever for a family to leave their home in the event of a fire. Still, more than 3,000 burn deaths occur each year and 486,000 people receive treatment for burn injuries, many of whom are children. Many of these injuries are accidental, and up to 73 percent occur in the home.

The high frequency of fire and burn injuries that occur in the home underscores the importance of fire safety in the home. Aside from making sure there are working smoke alarms installed and a fire-escape plan developed, parents should be careful while they are cooking. Never leave the stove unattended, and cook on the back burners if possible, to make it more difficult for a child to reach the flame. It may also be a good idea to check the home’s water heater temperature and set it to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. This can ensure that children are not burned.

Accidental and unintentional injuries will never be totally prevented – they’re accidents after all – but following the simple preventative measures laid out it in this post could contribute to reducing how frequently they occur. This is especially important because these injuries disproportionately affect young children and the elderly, two groups that need the most protection.

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