We like to think of our house as a safe haven. It's the place we retire to each night after a long day of work, it's where our families and pets are, it's our comfort zone. In spite of these peaceful associations, the typical American home poses some serious health risks - so much so that, with the exception of car crashes, more accidental deaths occur in the home than anywhere else.
There is one room in the house that contributes to more accidents than any other, and it's probably not a place you would typically associate with danger. Take a guess what it is.
Did you say "the bathroom"? If so, give yourself a pat on the back, because you're absolutely right. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year, over 22 million Americans are injured in the bathroom. Which begs the question....
What makes the bathroom so dangerous?
On a very simple level, it’s the combination of hard surfaces and water. Bathrooms typically feature tile flooring, which is ideal for easy cleaning but terrible for maintaining your balance – especially during or after bathing. Water from the shower makes these surfaces incredibly treacherous, to the extent that more than 155,000 Americans go to the emergency room annually as a result of falls that occur while bathing, showering, or exiting the tub/shower.
Another leading cause of bathroom injury is the toilet itself. The slippery nature of the toilet seat coupled with the unforgiving hardness of the bathroom floor makes falling from the porcelain throne a serious issue. This is especially true for the elderly, who suffer more than half of their injuries in the bathroom near or on the toilet.
All told, falls make up 80% of all accidents that occur in the bathroom each year, resulting in injuries ranging from bruising and abrasions to concussions and hip fractures.
Who is getting injured?
According to the CDC study, while injuries were reported across all age ranges and demographics, there was a marked increase in frequency as age increased. The most-often injured age brackets were 75-84 and 85+ (with incidences of 241 per 100,000 and 515 per 100,000, respectively), with the least injured falling between the ages of 15-24 (58.8 incidences per 100,000).
Other interesting facts to note:
-Women were far more prone to injury than men, outpacing them by a whopping 72%
-Americans above the age of 65 were most often injured when getting on or off the toilet
-Injuries to the head or neck occurred with the highest frequency of any body part
How can I make my bathroom safer?
In order to minimize the risk of injury in the bathroom, you need to minimize the risk of slipping and falling. Most Americans (63% according to the CDC study) make an effort to do this by utilizing bathtub mats and nonslip pads in their bathrooms. These mats help to create friction and increase stability, but they alone are not enough to completely eliminate the risk of falling.
Judy A. Stevens, author of the CDC report, recommends installing safety bars by the toilet for “people in their older years,” further stating that “everyone would benefit from having grab bars both inside the tub or shower.”
Grab rails can be easily installed in the shower or on the sides of bathtubs, toilets, and walls, while non-slip mats are perfect for the bathroom or shower floor. These bathroom aids are generally small, unobtrusive, and – best of all – inexpensive: the average bath mat costs around $20, while most grab bars cost between $30 and $50.
To ConcludeThe point of this article isn't to make you fearful every time you head to the bathroom, but to encourage you to be conscious of the risks posed by wet floors. In addition to installing grab rails and utilizing bath mats, you can help reduce your risk of falling by drying yourself (and your floors) thoroughly after bathing, and keeping toilet seats tightly fastened to prevent slipping. Here at Vive Health, your wellbeing is our top priority - use these tips to stay safe this year!