Home safe home? Don't count on it. Turns out, our homes and yards are hotbeds for injury. Fix up your house of pain with this easy guide.
Injuryproof your living area
Main staircases tend to get cluttered with things that need to go up — you know, the laundry you climb over on your way to bed? These tripping hazards contribute to the nearly 1.5 million ER visits a year women make due to accidents on stairs, ramps and floors. Clear your way: Hang a bag on the banister for step stuff.
Put bright bulbs in fixtures at the top and bottom of every staircase so you can see where your feet are landing.
Pick up toys that pets or kids leave lying around. Use night-lights so you can navigate when you're up and about in the dark.
Fluffy and Snowflake move according to their own agenda, says Carol W. Runyan, Ph.D., director of the Injury Prevention Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which seems to include running underfoot. Shoo pets away from your path, especially if you're carrying things.
High-traffic areas can get stinky, but forgo store-bought air fresheners. They may contain airborne chemicals considered toxic, hazardous or carcinogenic, a study from the University of Washington at Seattle suggests. Instead, place drops of a favorite essential oil on cotton balls and tuck them into concealed spots.
Injuryproof your kitchen
Store a fire extinguisher within reach of the oven. The Tundra by First Alert ($12; Amazon.com) is an easy-to-use spray can, so you won't waste time reading instructions or fiddling with pins. "Grease fires intensify when you douse them with water, but the Tundra puts out a gentle, biodegradable spray that won't knock pots over the way a regular fire extinguisher can," says Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council in Washington, D.C.
Don't use an open oven door as a perch for your Thanksgiving bird or other heavy pans: The weight can tip the stove forward and dump its contents onto you.
Load knives into the dishwasher blade-down and keep the door closed. If you trip and land on tip-up blades … well, you get the (gory) picture.
Hand-wash knives one at a time instead of throwing them into the sink with other dishes, so you don't slice yourself while plunging your hands into soapy water.
Edges of cans are as sharp as knives and send about 140,000 women a year to ERs. Nix them with the Oxo Good Grips Smooth Edge can opener ($20; Oxo.com), which makes a smooth cut below the lid lip.
Wiping cutting boards with a sponge between uses is fast—and unsanitary. "It won't get rid of bacteria, like campylobacter, that cause foodborne illness," says Brenda Wilson, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Wash (but don't soak) boards in soapy hot water after each use.
Injuryproof your bedroomIf you're among the one third of Americans who have a firearm at home, you're 3.7 times more likely to be accidentally shot and killed than women who don't allow guns in their house, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia report. To prevent a fluke firing, equip firearms with a trigger lock, store them unloaded in a gun safe or cabinet and lock the ammo in a separate spot.
Sign up for a firearms safety course, even if you've already taken one. A refresher never hurts, and it certainly stings less than a bullet! To find a class near you, check with your state's fish and game department.
Candles that were lit to set the mood for lovin' — and then forgotten in the afterglow (or afternap) — are often to blame for house fires. Place them on a sturdy, uncluttered surface at least a foot away from drapes, bedding, paper or anything else combustible.
Never let candles burn unattended or all the way down to the holder. They can ignite flammable debris that gathers around the base.
Swap real candles for flameless ones: Candle Impressions uses scented wax to make battery-operated candles that cast a flickering glow without turning up the heat. (That part's up to you.)
Injuryproof your bathroom
Put a nonslip mat on the tub floor and hold on to something sturdy when you get out. Slipping and falling in the tub or shower is the top cause of bathroom injuries, and residue from hair products and soaps adds to the wet floor's slickness.
Ingesting or inhaling cleaning agents poisons more adults than anything except drug overdoses; at last count, 5,000 more women than men were harmed this way a year. (Hmmm … wonder why?) Either make your guy clean the loo (joke — sort of) or opt for nontoxic all-purpose cleansers such as those from Seventh Generation and Method (available at Drugstore.com).
Be sure electrical appliances such as hair-dryers have a safety cutoff (it's there if the plug has red and yellow test and reset buttons), which cuts the current if you drop it in water. Touching a wet appliance was one of the ways 19,000 women were hurt by grooming devices in 2006 alone. Shocking!
Look for a label such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories) on every appliance, indicating it was independently tested for safety.
Injuryproof your yard
"Bizarre gardening accident" is a punch line, but it's also not funny: Hand tools and lawn mowers injure 36,000 women a year. Keep tool handles clean; dirt, water and oil can make hands slip.
Don't pull a mower behind you — you could slip under it and get whacked. If you have a riding mower, take hills up or down, not across, to reduce the risk of tipping. Also, don't mow wet, slippery grass, and clear the yard of debris before you start.
Washing tall windows? When climbing a ladder, keep your body centered in its frame with your belly button facing the rungs so you don't overreach and lose balance.
Always maintain three points of contact with a ladder (e.g., both feet and a hand).
This is yard work, not date night, so dress the part: Avoid wearing loose hair, clothes or jewelry that could get caught in moving or cutting parts. Protect your eyes from flying debris with safety goggles (or at least sunglasses). And wear closed shoes with firm, slip-resistant soles. "I've seen women climb ladders in flip-flops, which is extremely dangerous," Appy says.
Injuryproof your basement
Put a CO detector in the basement and on every floor of your home. Odorless CO leaks from fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces poison several thousand people a year and kill hundreds.
If your treadmill lives in the cellar, make sure another person is within earshot before you hop on. (Hey, missteps happen.) And leave plenty of open space behind your machine so that if you do fall, you won't hit a wall.
But what about … your top fears, eased
Can lint buildup in my clothes dryer catch fire? Yes, especially if the dryer is too full, which can trap heat inside, says Michael Petroff, vice chairman of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association in Ashland, Massachusetts. Clean the lint trap after every use, and keep loads small.
Should I unplug appliances when I leave home? If you see a UL label, it's probably safe to leave them plugged in, Petroff says. If you don't, or if you can't stop sweating that toaster, pull the plug.
How can I know if there's deadly mold growing in my walls? Odds are, you'll smell an earthy or musty odor. If you do and you see discoloration in water-damaged spots, call in a pro.