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Most of us feel safe in our home, but dangers lurk in every corner. Your home may harbor toxins from its building materials. A wide range of poisons may be found in your kitchen cabinet, medicine cabinet, and garage. The electricity used to power household appliances can cause electrical shock or death. And if that isn't enough, you could fall, drown, or even experience a fire in your home. Fortunately, by being aware of household hazards and taking the precautions outlined in this article, you can guarantee that your "home, sweet home" is a "home, safe home." Here's a quick preview:

  • A Guide to Household ToxinsMany household toxins, like lead, radon, asbestos, and formaldehyde, come from the materials used to build homes. They can cause a variety of serious health problems, from fatigue and headaches to lung cancer. Polluted drinking water and allergens in the home can also make you sick. But there are ways to detect these dangers and eliminate them from your home.
  • How to Poison-Proof Your HouseMany people, especially children and the elderly, die from accidental poisoning at home. Common household poisons like detergents, insecticides, vitamins, and prescription medications can seriously injure a child who ingests them. Elderly people who take prescription medicines can be poisoned by accidentally taking a second dose. However, most cases of accidental poisoning can easily be prevented by ensuring that poisons are stored properly and kept out of the reach of children.  
  • A Guide to Household Electricity HazardsThe electricity in a home can be a dangerous power source if proper precautions are not taken. Electrical shocks from coming into contact with electricity can knock you unconscious, cause burns, and even be fatal. By taking simple measures like covering outlets with safety plugs, keeping electrical appliances away from water, and turning off circuit breakers before attempting electrical work, you can reduce your risk of coming into direct contact with electricity.
  • How to Prevent Accidental FallsThe elderly and those with certain medical conditions are especially at risk for accidentally falling at home. However, no matter what your age or health status, you can fall due to carelessness or putting yourself in risky situations. Falls can result in minor injuries like bruises or cuts, or more serious injuries like broken bones and burns. Fortunately, you can greatly reduce your risk of falling by following safety tips like moving carefully and removing obstacles from your home.
  • How to Prevent DrowningDrowning is a leading cause of accidental death, especially for children. Drowning does not happen just in homes that have swimming pools -- children can drown in small containers of water, like a bucket or a toilet. Simple steps like installing a fence around your pool and never allowing someone to swim alone can help ensure that a drowning death will never occur in or around your home.
  • A Guide to Household Fire HazardsMost deaths due to household fires can be avoided by properly installing and maintaining smoke detectors. Having working fire extinguishers, keeping lighters and matches away from children, and using caution around portable heaters are just a few more ways you can lessen the chances of a fire devastating your home. While it is impossible to completely fireproof your house, you can make it much safer for your family.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

A Guide to Household Toxins

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Household toxins can come from  unlikely sources and cause serious health problems.

You may not see or smell them, but a wide range of toxins may be in your home. Some can cause serious health problems. Read on to learn how to find and eliminate these potential hazards.

Lead

Before World War II, most homes were painted with lead paint. In fact, about 75 percent of all homes built before 1980 have lead-based paint. In 1978, the United States banned lead paint for interior use, but many non-lead paints were then used to cover older walls that still contained traces of lead. Sanding off this bottom coat of paint releases lead dust that is highly toxic.

In addition, many ceramic-glazed and antique dishes contain lead, as do some older painted wooden and metal toys. Older homes may have lead pipes that can seep lead into the family's drinking water. This is especially serious in families with infants when tap water is used to make the formula. Traces of lead may also be in the soil of the yard where children play.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1.6 percent of children aged 1 to 5 years had harmful levels of lead in their blood. Children are at greater risk of lead poisoning because they have more hand-to-mouth exposure, have less body mass, and are growing at a faster rate than adults.

Children don't even have to eat dirt or paint chips to be harmed by the lead. Unfortunately, lead dust is absorbed by the body. Minor traces of lead in the body can cause extreme fatigue, headaches, mental confusion, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and vague aches and pains. According to the American Lead Consultants, even low levels of exposure to lead can cause a four- to six-point drop in a child's IQ. But higher amounts of lead poisoning can have even more drastic effects, including damage to the brain, kidneys, and nervous system, especially in young children and fetuses. It also can be fatal.

If you think your house may have lead paint, contact your local health department or your state or county agriculture agency, or call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD. Although wiping windowsills frequently and vacuuming often can reduce some of the danger of lead dust, experts say it is vital to remove it entirely to prevent the possibility of lead poisoning. In many states, if you are aware of the presence of lead paint in a house you are renting or selling, you are required to disclose that information to potential renters and purchasers.

Radon

In our zeal to build airtight buildings for more efficient heating and cooling since the energy crunch of the 1970s, we've sealed ourselves into boxes where we are prey to a deadly gas known as radon. Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the decay of uranium in rocks, soil, and building materials. This gas may be lurking beneath your home, your office, or your child's school and can creep inside through cracks and seams in the building. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that radon may be the second leading cause of lung cancer, ranking just after cigarette smoking. Radon is responsible for causing anywhere from 7,000 to 30,000 of the 140,000 cases of lung cancer annually in the United States. According to a Swedish study, those at greatest risk of developing lung cancer from radon were smokers living in homes with high radon levels.

Before buying a home or to check levels in your present home, test for radon by using a radon detection kit, called a "charcoal canister," available at most major hardware stores. Start with the basement, as that is closest to the ground and has more potential for seepage. The EPA recommends that all homes below the third floor be tested, as radon tends to dissipate as it moves upward.

For more information about radon, contact your local chapter of the American Lung Association, or visit their Web site at www.lungusa.org. You can also call the EPA's radon hotline at 1-800-767-7236. Ask for "A Citizen's Guide to Radon."

Asbestos

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been in use since ancient times. It was used as insulation in one quarter of all homes, hospitals, and office buildings built from 1920 to 1970. Self-contained asbestos is safe. As the fibers age, however, they disintegrate, forming a fine dust. This dust from the asbestos fibers can cause serious respiratory problems, including cancer. Children are more vulnerable to the effects of the asbestos dust because of their size. In 1973, the EPA banned the use of asbestos as insulation for schools. Sixteen years later, the ban was extended to forbid the production and sale of asbestos products by 1997.

If you live in an older house or apartment building or work in an older office building, ask your local environmental control agency for an asbestos inspection. If it is discovered, do not try to remove it yourself. Have a reputable and knowledgeable technician remove it.

Formaldehyde

Experts estimate that most of us spend 90 percent of our time inside our homes and offices. Many of these buildings are sealed boxes with windows that either cannot open or are not open due to air conditioning and heating considerations. In essence, we breathe recycled air most of our day.

Formaldehyde is found in insulation, fiberboard, paneling, carpeting, and fabrics and is used in window treatments and upholstery. Although formaldehyde insulation is no longer used in new construction, it may be present in older homes, places of business, or schools.

You probably remember the smell of formaldehyde coming from your frog specimen in high school biology class. It bothered your mucous membranes then, and it can have the same effect in its present uses. Gases from this chemical can also cause dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and other symptoms. Check with an environmental specialist especially if your surroundings contain a number of synthetic products with formaldehyde as their base.

Water Quality

Although it may be difficult to think of water as a potential hazard, pollution has made this situation a reality. While many travelers worry about the quality of drinking water when they venture abroad, they also need to concern themselves with the safety of drinking water at home. Our drinking water has become polluted by industrial wastes, pesticides, lead, and bacteria.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. To remove most pollutants from your tap water, use a home water-filtering system.

A home water-filtering system can help screen out many of the pollutants in tap water, but not all of them. Bottled water isn't 100 percent safe, either. Today's Food and Drug Administration requirements only specify that bottled water be as safe as water that comes out of the tap.

Don't just worry about drinking water either. Be careful about the water you swim or boat in also. Swimming in polluted water can be dangerous. You can absorb the contaminants through your skin, nose, and eyes, and some water is bound to get swallowed.

Allergens

More than 40 million Americans suffer from some form of allergy. For some, the allergy symptoms may be no more than a runny nose, itching eyes, or a slightly annoying skin rash, but for others, allergies can pose a serious health hazard causing unrelenting vomiting and diarrhea, severe asthma attacks that make it difficult to breathe, or hives and swelling of throat tissues.

In some cases, an allergic reaction can become so severe that the person suffers from anaphylactic shock. Although most of us with allergies will never have to deal with a life-threatening attack, the nuisance and expense of simply run-of-the-mill sniffling and itching is enough to make us take action.

Because a complete cure is not in the offing, the best strategy is to minimize exposure to the offending triggers. Here are some tips on how to reduce your risk from allergens:

  • Avoid carpeting wherever possible; instead, use wood or linoleum.
  • Don't store things under the bed because they collect dust.
  • Omit heavy curtains, draperies, Venetian blinds, and upholstered furniture.
  • Keep pets out of the bedroom area; if you don't have a pet, don't get one.
  • Do not use feather pillows; sleep without a pillow or only with the kind your doctor recommends.
  • Vacuum your mattress often because it contains dust mites.
  • Wash blankets and pillows every two weeks in hot water.
  • Encase your mattress, pillow, and box spring in allergen-free plastic coverings.
  • Keep bedrooms uncluttered to cut down on dust accumulation.
  • Remove books from your bedroom because they attract mold spores.
  • Eliminate houseplants and flowers because they drop pollen, and the wet potting soil invites mold.
  • Exercise inside when the outdoor air quality is bad or the pollen count is high.
  • Invest in a vacuum cleaner that holds dust in a cup or airtight bag, rather than the kind that recycles air through a cloth or paper container.
  • Keep windows closed at night.
  • Change your heating and air-conditioning filter monthly to reduce the dust and mold accumulation.
  • Avoid using chemical cleaning agents in aerosol containers because they are easily inhaled. Instead use natural cleaning materials such as baking soda or vinegar.
  • See an environmental physician or allergist for possible allergy shots.
  • If you are severely allergic to shellfish, peanut oil, corn, or other food products, make sure to read the ingredients lists on food labels carefully. Ask about the recipes and ingredients of food items that do not have labels, such as those at a restaurant or other people's homes. Remember that even smelling or touching these foods can produce an allergic reaction in some individuals.
  • Wear a medical ID bracelet if you have a severe allergy to a food or medication.
  • If your child has an allergy, be sure to inform teachers and camp counselors.
  • Watch out for dyes and chemical additives such as sulfites, monosodium glutamate (MSG), nitrates, and nitrites that may trigger allergies.

While you may have not been familiar with the toxins discussed so far, you use other toxic subtances every day. Continue reading to learn what substances can accidentally poison the members of your household.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Poison-Proof Your House

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Children can be poisoned by eating or drinking common household chemicals.

Many household products that we use every day pose a hidden danger: they may be poisonous. Learn which products are poisonous, how to prevent your loved ones from accidentally ingesting them, and steps to take in case a poisoning occurs.

Each year thousands of people die from accidental poisoning, many of them children. Children, especially those under five years of age, learn by exploring and investigating their world.

Unfortunately, what they see and reach for often ends up in their mouths. For example, when babies are in the crawling stage, they can find drain cleaners and dishwasher detergent under the sink. As soon as they become toddlers, they can grab furniture polish and medicines in purses on beds.

When they start to climb, they can drag a chair over to a tall dresser or high cabinet and get into perfume, medicine, and other potential poisons. The substance doesn't even have to taste good; children will eat and drink almost anything. Moreover, some substances do not have to be swallowed to be toxic. They can also be inhaled or absorbed by the skin.

Almost 90 percent of poison exposures are accidental and, therefore, preventable. Insecticides, including those used domestically, are a common form of accidental poisoning because they often are purchased in large quantities and may be stored open and unprotected in cupboards, making them easily obtained by toddlers.

Iron pills are one of the most common causes of accidental poisoning deaths in toddlers. Vitamin and mineral supplements may seem harmless, but in large doses, some are dangerous, and it does not take very much to be a large dose for a toddler. Birth control pills, alcohol, vitamins, tranquilizers, nail polish remover, pesticides, plant fertilizer, and hobby chemicals such as glue, enamel paint, ink, paint thinner, and photography liquids are all potentially poisonous if ingested by a child.

The key to preventing accidental poisoning is simple: Don't allow your children to have access to any potentially toxic substances. That doesn't mean merely telling them that this cabinet is not for children or that these items are "poisons." It means locking cabinets and heeding labels when they say "keep out of reach of children." Make sure your children know what is off limits, but also actively take steps to prevent accidental poisoning. Here are some important safety tips for adults and adults with children:

  • Keep all household products and medicines out of children's reach, preferably in a locked cabinet.
  • When you're using any of these products, never let them out of your sight, even if that means taking them with you when you answer the telephone or doorbell.
  • Store medicines separately from household products.
  • Keep medicines and household products in their original containers. Never transfer them to soft drink bottles, paper cups, or other containers.
  • Leave original labels on all products and read the label before and after using. There are many look-alike bottles -- such as various juices and cleaning liquids, grated cheese and cleansers, and candies and antihistamines. Adults, especially those with limited vision, can grab the wrong product just as easily as a child can.
  • Pour liquids on the side opposite the label so the moisture doesn't blur the writing.
  • Never give or take medicines in the dark.
  • Avoid taking medicines in front of children, as youngsters tend to imitate adults.
  • Use child-resistant containers properly by closing them securely after each use. However, don't rely on "childproof" caps to prevent your child from discovering a way to open a bottle of medicine or cleaning chemicals. They are merely "child-resistant," not "childproof," and many youngsters can open them faster than adults can.
  • Never refer to medicine as "candy" or to how good it tastes.
  • Sort through your medicines at least twice a year. Dispose of medicines no longer used by flushing the contents down the toilet and rinsing out the container before throwing it away.
  • Be more attentive at peak times. Most accidental poisonings occur between 4 and 6 p.m. when children are hungry and fussy and parents are tired and busy fixing dinner. Other peak times for an accidental poisoning are when a parent or sibling is ill or the family is on a trip.
  • Never store poisons in your pantry or food cabinet.
  • Be alert when you have guests who may have medications in their purse or suitcase or when you visit someone else's home, which may not be poison-proofed.
  • Never go to bed leaving dirty ashtrays or alcohol in glasses after a party. A child can awake early, get out of bed, and ingest these potentially toxic agents.
  • Know the number of the National Poison Control Hotline (1-800-222-1222) and keep it posted by every telephone in your home.

Children are not the only ones at risk for accidental poisoning. Those who take many prescription drugs, such as the elderly, may forget they have taken their medication and take another dose. Alcohol compounds the problem. It can lead to forgetfulness and taking too much medicine. Also, mixing alcohol with certain prescription drugs can create dangerously toxic effects.

In case of accidental poisoning, you need to know some basics so that at the very least, you don't make matters worse. The very first thing to do is contact the National Poison Control Hotline and follow their instructions. Often, if the product ingested is caustic, such as lye, bleach, toilet bowl cleaner, or other corrosive household chemicals, you will be told not to induce vomiting, but to dilute the substance with water as rapidly as possible.

Also, do not induce vomiting if you're unsure what was swallowed, or if it was an alkali or a petroleum product, such as gasoline or kerosene. Do not give syrup of ipecac or use any other method to induce vomiting unless Poison Control tells you to.

Some children may vomit when they have swallowed a poisonous substance. Others become sleepy or sluggish for no apparent reason. You may notice that the contents of a particular bottle have been reduced or that some of the substance remains around the child's mouth and teeth or has been spilled on the clothes. There may be burns around the lips or mouth from corrosive items or a breath odor from items such as alcohol or petroleum products.

Get medical advice even if you suspect, but don't know for sure, that your child has ingested a potentially hazardous product. Call the National Poison Control Hotline. It is staffed by professionals who are familiar with how poisonous a particular substance is (known as its "toxicity"). You will be given immediate information on what you should do to dilute or eliminate the poison, how to maintain the victim's breathing and circulation, and how to get medical aid. Their service is free and confidential.

A different kind of danger can come from the power source in our homes -- electricity. To learn how to safeguard your loved ones from electical dangers in the home, read the next section of this article.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

A Guide to Household Electricity Hazards

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Cover electrical outlets with safety plugs to protect children from electrical shock.

Electricity is a power source we rely on, day after day. This essential component of our homes, however, poses a hazard -- electrical shock.

While most of us take electricity for granted, because it can't be seen or smelled, coming in contact with electricity can be dangerous and even deadly. Electrical shocks can knock you unconscious, cause deep tissue burns, and stop your breathing and heartbeat. Take the proper precautions with electricity, and you will reap the benefits without the dangers.

  • Put safety plugs over all electrical outlets to prevent children from sticking screwdrivers, nails, pins, or other metal objects into them.
  • Never use electrical appliances such as radios or hair dryers near a filled bathtub or sink. They could fall in and electrocute someone.
  • Never touch anything electrical with wet hands or while standing in water.
  • Don't run extension cords under the rug or carpet. The wires can quickly become frayed or broken from people walking on them, causing shocks and fires.
  • Always turn off the circuit breaker before changing a lightbulb that has broken off from its base or before making any electrical repairs.
  • Do not talk on the phone, take a bath, or use electric appliances during a lightning storm. The electrical charge can come in through the water pipes or telephone wires.
  • Never touch someone who has been electrocuted without first shutting off the power source or moving them away from it with a nonmetal object, such as a wooden broom handle. The current could pass through the individual's body and shock you.

You probably were already aware that electricity can be dangerous, but did you know that lack of adequate lighting in your home, having scatter rugs, and jumping out of bed quickly are dangerous, too? These can cause you to accidentally fall. Find out who is most at risk for falling, and what preventative steps you can take against falls in your home.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Prevent Accidental Falls

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Using a walker can help the elderly avoid falls.

Accidental falls, especially by senior citizens, are fairly common. By making simple preparations, you can lower the chances of you or another household member falling and being injured in your home.

Approximately 30 percent of those 65 and older fall each year. Accidental falls, especially around the home, kill more people over 65 than any other single type of injury, and they are the leading cause of accidental death for people over age 85. Those suffering from the residual effects of a stroke are especially susceptible to falling because of visual deficits, weakness, gait problems, and the effects of medication. In addition to breaking bones, falling can injure an older person's self-confidence, causing them to restrict their activities for fear of falling again.

Anyone can fall because of carelessness, stress, poor vision, or a loss of balance due to the side effects of drugs or alcohol. While the actual fall may result in nothing more than a bruise or slight cut, falling against a hot stove or hitting one's head against a hard object can cause a serious injury.

With awareness and preplanning, most of these falls can be avoided. Generally, you should take care to avoid high-risk situations: Don't jump right out of bed; the sudden change in blood pressure could make you feel dizzy. And NEVER use a chair as a step stool. Try to move more methodically. For example, take your time answering the phone; if you hurry, you could fall.

Here are some prevention tips:

  • Install photocell night-lights in your hallways, bedrooms, bathrooms, and near the staircase so they light automatically when it is dark.
  • If you need glasses for distance, be sure to wear them while walking around the house.
  • Increase the wattage of lightbulbs lighting all staircases.
  • Keep a flashlight on your nightstand so that late night trips are not attempted blind.
  • Remove scatter rugs or be certain they are securely taped to the floor or have a nonskid backing. Air-dry bath mats so the rubber backing doesn't crack.
  • Keep all staircases free from toys, shoes, or other clutter.
  • Wear shoes and slippers with nonslip soles.
  • Don't walk up or down stairs in stocking feet.
  • Wipe up all kitchen spills immediately. A dab of butter, a grape, or a piece of lettuce can turn a kitchen floor into an ice rink, with potentially disastrous results.
  • Relocate or tape down extension cords and telephone cords that might make someone trip.
  • Be sure floor surfaces are not slippery. After washing them, block them off from traffic until they are totally dry.

Children and the elderly have the greatest risk of experiencing a fall and also of suffering a serious injury as a result. If you have young children or an older person in the house take these extra precautions:

  • Install sturdy handrails on both sides of staircases.
  • Install a safety gate at the top and bottom of stairs to prevent toddlers from climbing up and falling down the steps.
  • Open windows from the top, not the bottom, to keep children from falling out; screens are not strong enough to hold even small children.
  • If you suffer from osteoporosis or have an unsteady gait from multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, or any other disorder, use a walker or a cane for added support.
  • Install grab bars in tubs, in showers, and near the toilet. You don't have to be old or pregnant to feel suddenly dizzy or weak.
  • Use nonskid rubber mats or rubber stickers in bathtubs and shower stalls.
  • Mark the bottom step with high-visibility tape, a different color paint, or some other highly visual marking.

While accidental falls are more common in the elderly, accidental drowning is more common in children. Read the next page to find out how you can prevent someone from drowning inside or outside your home.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Prevent Drowning

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. To reduce the risk of drowning, never swim alone and exercise extra caution  when using an inflatable rafts or other flotation devices.

Accidental drowning can happen at the beach, at your pool at home, or even in a small container of water like a bucket. There are several ways to keep people from drowning. Read on to find what you can do to prevent drowning deaths.

According to the CDC, drowning is the seventh leading cause of accidental death for all ages and the second leading cause of death in children aged 1 to 14 years. Many drowning victims know how to swim but either swim out too far, suffer a cramp, or just panic and lose control. For every death, many more drowning victims will be rescued and survive but will live with serious brain damage. It only takes a few minutes for a child to drown. Young children are "head-heavy" for their bodies. They can drown in a bucket of water or the toilet because they can't lift their heads out.

Whether you have a pool at home or you like to swim at the community pool or beach, a few simple guidelines will help you safeguard your family from water hazards:

  • Surround your pool or hot tub with a fence that cannot be climbed over or slipped through or under.
  • Install locking gates on your pool and hot tub, and keep them locked. In one study, 70 percent of the pools where a drowning took place had broken or unlocked gates.
  • Purchase a pool cover and pool alarm system.
  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Contact the American Red Cross, your community hospital, or a local adult-education program for information.
  • Keep a telephone in the pool or spa area.
  • Don't rely on swimming lessons to keep your child safe; you cannot "drown-proof" a child.
  • Never allow anyone of any age to swim alone; even expert swimmers can develop cramps, get dizzy, or hit their heads.
  • Don't rely on plastic arm floats or float toys to support your child; they may slip off or deflate.
  • Teach your children and their guests proper water safety rules, including no running or pushing near a pool deck or on a diving board, no dunking other swimmers, and no yelling "help" unless you are actually in trouble.
  • Never allow a child to remain in or near the bathtub, swimming pool, or any other body of water if you must leave -- even for just a minute. Most toddler drownings occur when the caregiver is distracted by the telephone, chores, or socializing. A child can drown in only a few inches of water.
  • Keep sandboxes covered tightly when not in use. Rainwater can collect inside and pose a danger of drowning to small children.
  • Be sure to alert your baby-sitter to potential pool hazards.

When you're at the beach:

  • Always swim parallel to and not too far away from the shoreline. If you get a sudden cramp or tire, you're not far from shore.
  • If you get stuck in a rip current, swim diagonally to the current. If you are a weak swimmer or become exhausted, float on the current and signal for help.
  • Use caution with rafts and other flotation devices. Waves and strong currents can swiftly carry a sleeping sunbather far offshore.
  • Be careful of sudden drop-offs, strong currents, and undertows when swimming in oceans, rivers, or lakes.
  • Remind children to go into water feet first. Each year, diving into shallow water takes its toll in drownings and spinal cord injuries.
  • Never swim during electrical storms.
  • Never ride in a boat unless there is a life jacket for every passenger, including children. Be sure everyone wears his or her jacket.
  • Wear a life jacket when you water ski or jet ski. Even experienced skiers can fall and hit their heads.

Water can pose a hazard, but so can water's opposite -- fire. The next page will alert you to potential fire hazards in your home and give you tips to prevent fires from starting.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

A Guide to Household Fire Hazards

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Installing smoke detectors in your home can reduce the risk of deaths due to fire.

If you have ever witnessed a fire, you know the devastation it can cause. Learn how to prevent a fire from happening in your home by reading these safety tips.  

According to the CDC, four out of five deaths resulting from a fire happen in the home. According to the National Safety Council, most of these deaths could be avoided if smoke detectors were properly installed and regularly maintained in the kitchen, stairwells, and near each bedroom. Check the batteries at least yearly to make sure they work.

The American Red Cross reports that 80 percent of all deaths due to fire take place when the family is sleeping. The cause is not the fire itself, but rather smoke inhalation and lack of oxygen. In addition, the fire may trigger the release of poisonous chemicals in upholstery, plastic material, and draperies.

No matter what the construction, no house is completely fireproof, but you can do a great deal to prevent home fires:

  • If there are children in the home, lock up matches and cigarette lighters.
  • Don't hang potholders or dishtowels over the burners on the stove. Store them away from the stovetop.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Never leave home or go to bed with your Christmas tree lights on.
  • Never use a higher watt lightbulb than a lamp manufacturer suggests.
  • Use salt or soda to put out a grease fire in your kitchen; never throw water on it.
  • Have an established family escape route and have regular fire drills. If your house has more than one story, keep a fire safety ladder under each bed. Plan ahead where you'll all meet outside.
  • Teach your family the American Red Cross rule if their clothes ever catch on fire: Stop running, Drop to the ground, and Roll over to put out the flames.
  • Keep papers, curtains, and other flammable material away from hot radiators, portable heaters, and lighted fireplaces.
  • Make sure that your child's sleepwear is flame resistant, and wash it according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Be very careful with portable kerosene heaters. Use them only when you are in the room; turn them off any time you leave the room.
  • For homes with children, put up guards around space heaters, fireplaces, and wood-burning stoves.
  • Don't overload circuits by putting too many plugs in an outlet.
  • For lamps or small appliances, don't use extension cords that dangle and can be pulled. Children can pull the appliance down and injure themselves as well as start a fire.
  • Don't let your children play with firecrackers or any type of explosives.
  • Buy fire extinguishers, and learn how to use them. Place them where they are most likely to be needed, such as the kitchen. Check periodically to be sure they are in good working order.

The American Institute for Preventive Medicine is dedicated to helping people change to a healthier lifestyle through successful wellness programs, products, and publications.

Don R. Powell, Ph.D., is the founder and president of the American Institute for Preventive Medicine. A licensed psychologist, Powell is an authority on the design, marketing, and implementation of community and corporate health education programs. Powell has won numerous awards and has appeared on many television and radio talk shows.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.