Adventure has been described as someone else having a horrible time far away. And that’s how we think of danger – something that happens when you’re out taking chances. Home is where you go to be safe. To be in control. To escape the danger that lurks just outside our doors. And, yes, it can be dangerous out of doors. You’re much more likely to be mauled by a tiger, or on a less humorous note, stabbed by a mugger. But every year 18,000 Americans die in their homes. And they die in the most horrifyingly mundane ways.
It shouldn’t be surprising that we die at home pretty frequently. We spend most of our time there, sleeping, cooking, relaxing, preparing for or returning from work and adventures. It shouldn’t be a shock that when we have accidents that it is quite often in the place we spend so much of our time. Just like that old statistic that most car accidents happen close to home – of course they do. We’re usually leaving from or going to home and most car rides aren’t all that long. But it’s how we die at home that leaves so much to be desired. Especially when it is so incredibly preventable.
Believe it or not the home is the second most common place where Americans die of accidents, just after our automobiles. When we die of natural causes or disease, it tends to be in the hospital. When we die at home, it’s usually of clumsiness or stupidity. Well it is far from the scope of this article or the ability of one humble writer to cure clumsiness or stupidity. But it is well within the scope of this article and the ability of this admittedly pompous writer to educate you on how to die a little less often and shamelessly mock the deceased.
Let’s get this out of the way: 6,000 Americans die every year just from falling down in their own home. We’re not living in the dark ages, people. 911 is just a phone call away. Shouldn’t we all be safe from this incredibly embarrassing way to die? No, evidently not. Because just like those commercials we used to like to make fun of as kids it is really easy to have fallen and not be able to get up.
The most dangerous place to fall isn’t down a flight of stairs, by the way. It’s in the bathroom. When we’re heading down the stairs, we expect to be doing something slightly dangerous – we don’t dance down them a la Fred Astaire – but in the bathroom it’s easy to slip. And when we slip we tend to hit something pretty hard. The list of people who have been injured or died from a slip and fall is long and contains some pretty famous names, including one of my personal heroes, Kurt Vonnegut. But Kurt got off easy.
Doc Watson fell in his home and had to have colon surgery. Yeesh.
It may or may not shock readers that hot water is hot. And hot water can be get really freaking hot. That may be why more than 35,000 children end up in the ER thanks to scalding. The most common form is from hot drinks or food that is just served too hot and accidentally spills, but the most grievous scalding injuries are the ones that happen due to ordinary, everyday tap water.
The ways in which a child – and, indeed the elderly – can end up burnt are as varied as they are sad. Thankfully, the deaths that occur are far fewer than hospitalizations. On average, it’s 34 people who die from being scalded at home. So be careful when you adjust the baby’s bathwater – the vast majority of scaldings happen to children under four years of age and they can’t speak up for themselves. And don’t leave the kid alone in the tub, either – that’s when most burns occur.
As for the elderly, burns tend to happen thanks to clumsiness. Spilling hot coffee or tea might not seem like a big deal, but when you can’t get to cold water in time it can be very serious, indeed.
For all you wannabe Walter Whites growing Lilly Of The Valley in the backyard just waiting for the day you can temporarily paralyze the neighbor’s yappy dog, there are millions of people unwittingly growing beautiful little killers on their windowsills. This great Huffington Post article tells you about nine poisonous houseplants, and it always seems the most beautiful flowers are the ones that are most deadly… somewhat poetic, that.
Unfortunately that list leaves out my personal favorite poisonous plant: New Orleans’ own Oleander. Why? Because it’s so beautiful that many an ignorant fool put it in their dandelion wine, only to learn what a bad idea that is.
According to poison.org, 537 kids under the age of six were poisoned by plants and mushrooms in 2013 in just one poison control region. Thankfully, most plant poisonings in the USA occur outside the home and involve poison ivy, oak and sumac – and a little itchiness never hurt anyone. Of course, if you should ingest poison ivy, you’ll have one hell of a bad day.
I have to admit this took my emotions by surprise. Mothballs, dangerous? Nothing is more reminiscent of a kind old grandparent than the smell of mothballs. The smell of a well kept home. The smell… of doom. In case you don’t know, mothballs are little balls of pesticide meant to prevent moths from chewing up your clothes. You put them in your closet, in the pockets of your clothes and it eliminates the moth larva. What’s a pesticide? It’s a chemical that poisons pets. And, just like all pesticides, mothballs are poisonous to us just like they are to bugs.
Mothballs’ active ingredients are not only carcinogenic, but can also cause, and I’m quoting Wikipedia here, “cataracts and retinal hemorrhaging.” Yum. Even better, mothballs are seriously neurotoxic… which doesn’t stop some desperate folks from huffing them as a form of solvent abuse. What is it that makes people look at any sort of terrible poison as a way to get a little blotto? Seriously, people. Moth balls? There are a million ways to get high. Go lick a cane toad or eat some fresh nutmeg, for chrissakes.
So you know that sucking on a cigarette is bad for you, especially if it’s lit. You know that for every cigarette someone smokes near you, you’re smoking half. That’s second-hand smoke, and some sources say that it’s even more dangerous than taking up smoking yourself.
But what’s third hand smoke you ask? Third-hand smoke is not actually smoke. It started out that way before it seeped into the walls, curtains, roof, electronics and furniture of your home. The health effects of third hand smoke are still being studied, but what is known is that the carcinogens and nicotine that remains on all sorts of surfaces (and even inside walls) resist normal cleaning and can stick around for as long as the house does. And yes, it is pretty poisonous… especially when those chemicals mix with mold or water damage. In other words, if your home’s previous occupant was a smoker, they may still be killing you.
Easy Spray Cleaner Bottles
So you’ve had a baby, congratulations, time to childproof the whole damn house from basement to attic and make sure all your bottles are baby proof. Know what bottles aren’t babyproof? Spray bottles. According to a study in the journal Pediatrics, spray bottles accounted for two out of five cases of emergency room visits due to household cleaners. Most of those were, of course, poisoning. And you might be surprised just how many that is. According to the study eleven thousand, 964 kids under the age of five went to the ER thanks to accidental cleaning product exposure, and spray bottles are to blame for many of those accidents.
The easiest way to prevent these incredibly preventable tragedies is just to put spray bottles up high where kids can’t get to them and never put drinks or other kid-safe things into spray bottles. Just think of all the terrible chemicals that come in spray bottles. Detergent. Pesticides. Bleach. At the very least, please keep them separate and well labeled.