Observed annually in June, National Safety Month focuses on reducing leading
causes of injury and death at work, on the road, in our homes and communities.
Injuries are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 1 to 40, but
there are many things people can do to stay safe and prevent injuries.
- Only take prescription medications that are prescribed to you by a healthcare
professional. Misusing or abusing prescription or over-the-counter medications
is not a “safe” alternative to illicit substance abuse.
- Never take larger or more frequent doses of your medications, particularly
prescription pain medications, to try to get faster or more powerful effects.
- Never share or sell your prescription drugs. Keep all prescription medicines
(especially prescription painkillers, such as those containing methadone,
hydrocodone, or oxycodone), over-the-counter medicines (including pain
or fever relievers and cough and cold medicines), vitamins and herbals
in a safe place that can only be reached by people who take or give them.
- Follow directions on the label when you give or take medicines. Read all
warning labels. Some medicines cannot be taken safely when you take other
medicines or drink alcohol.
- Keep medicines in their original bottles or containers.
- Always keep medications in a locked box and out of reach of children.
- Participate in National Drug Take Back days.
- Always read the label before using a product that may be poisonous.
- Keep chemical products in their original bottles or containers. Do not
use food containers such as cups, bottles, or jars to store chemical products
such as cleaning solutions or beauty products.
- Never mix household products together. For example, mixing bleach and ammonia
can result in toxic gases.
- Turn on the fan and open windows when using chemical products such as household cleaners.
Put the poison help number,
1-800-222-1222, on or near every home telephone and save it on your cell phone. The line
is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Driving & Biking Safety:
- Seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about half.
- Seat belts saved almost 14,000 lives in 2015.
- Air bags provide added protection but are not a substitute for seat belts.
Air bags plus seat belts provides the greatest protection for adults.
- Anything that takes your attention away from driving can be a distraction.
Sending a text message, talking on a cell phone, using a navigation system,
and eating while driving are a few examples of distracted driving.
- Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three
types of distraction. Sending or reading a text message takes your eyes
off the road for about 5 seconds, long enough to cover a football field
while driving at 55 mph.
- Bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head and brain injuries in the event
of a crash. All bicyclists, regardless of age, can help protect themselves
by wearing properly fitted bicycle helmets every time they ride.
- Bicycle helmet laws are effective for increasing helmet use and reducing
crash-related injuries and deaths among children and adults.
- Fluorescent clothing can make bicyclists visible from further away than
regular clothing during the daytime.
- Retro-reflective clothing can make bicyclists more visible at night.
- Active lighting can include front white lights, rear red lights, or other
lighting on the bicycle or bicyclist. This lighting may improve the visibility
Research has identified many conditions that contribute to falling. These
are risk factors. Many risk factors can be changed or modified to help
- Lower body weakness
- Vitamin D deficiency (that is, not enough vitamin D in your system)
- Difficulties with walking and balance
- Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants.
Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and how steady
you are on your feet.
- Vision problems
- Foot pain or poor footwear
Home hazards or dangers such as:
- Broken or uneven steps and scatter rugs.
Who is most at risk?
Males: Nearly 80% of people who die from drowning are male.
Children: ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. In 2014, among children 1
to 4 years old who died from an unintentional injury, one-third died from
drowning. Among children ages 1 to 4, most drownings occur in home swimming
pools. Drowning is responsible for more deaths among children 1-4 than
any other cause except congenital anomalies (birth defects). Among those
1-14, fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional
injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes.
What factors influence drowning risk?
Lack of Swimming Ability: Many adults and children report that they cannot swim. Research has shown
that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning
among children aged 1 to 4 years.
Lack of Barriers: Barriers, such as pool fencing, prevent young children from gaining access
to the pool area without caregivers’ awareness. A four-sided isolation
fence (separating the pool area from the house and yard) reduces a child’s
risk of drowning 83% compared to three-sided property-line fencing.
Lack of Close Supervision: Drowning can happen quickly and quietly anywhere there is water (such
as bathtubs, swimming pools, buckets), and even in the presence of lifeguards.
Location: People of different ages drown in different locations. For example, most
children ages 1-4 drown in home swimming pools. The percentage of drownings
in natural water settings, including lakes, rivers and oceans, increases
with age. More than half of fatal and nonfatal drownings among those 15
years and older (57% and 57% respectively) occurred in natural water settings.
Failure to Wear Life Jackets: In 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard received reports for 4,604 boating incidents;
3,153 boaters were reported injured, and 672 died. Most (72%) boating
deaths that occurred during 2010 were caused by drowning, with 88% of
victims not wearing life jackets.
Alcohol Use: Among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70% of
deaths associated with water recreation, almost a quarter of ED visits
for drowning, and about one in five reported boating deaths. Alcohol influences
balance, coordination, and judgment, and its effects are heightened by
sun exposure and heat.
- You can reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade
under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter before you need relief from
the sun. Your best bet to protect your skin is to use sunscreen or wear
protective clothing when you are outside—even when you are in the shade.
- When possible, long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can provide
protection from UV rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer
the best protection. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than
a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors.
Some clothing certified under international standards comes with information
on its ultraviolet protection factor.
- For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that
shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric,
such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from UV rays. Avoid straw
hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more
- Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts.
They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure.
- Put on broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 before you go outside,
even on slightly cloudy or cool days. Do not forget to put a thick layer
on all parts of exposed skin. Get help for hard-to-reach places like your
back. And remember, sunscreen works best when combined with other options
to prevent UV damage.
Make a difference – spread the word about ways to reduce the risk of injuries. Encourage
communities, workplaces, families, and individuals to identify and report
Jennifer Cunningham, MD
Shenandoah Memorial Hospital Family Medicine | Mt. Jackson