Home Safe Home

Most of the time when we think about health and wellness, we think primarily about the physical aspects of diet and exercise. However, there are many other categories of well-being in the continuum of wellness that are very important but not commonly considered or discussed.  One of those less frequently discussed topics is how our environment shapes our well-being.  We can think about our environment in a myriad of different scopes, from as broad and expansive as our planet to as focused and specific as our homes. In either case, our environment has a critical effect on our health and well-being.

Although Americans spend a great portion of our days working, commuting, running errands and (hopefully) exercising, most of our busy lives are spent in our homes.  Home is a place where we typically feel safe, secure and can let our guards down. However, next to motor vehicle accidents, the top five leading causes of accidental preventable deaths occur in the home. According to The National Safety Council, falls were the cause of 9,194,403 non-fatal injuries in the United States in 2016. And poisoning accounted for 36% of fatal accidents in the same year (http://injuryfacts.nsc.org/all-injuries/deaths-by-demographics/top-10-preventable-injuries/).  Even a non-fatal or relatively minor injury such as a sprained ankle can knock you out of your workout routine, allowing the pounds to creep back on. A shoulder or wrist injury can make cooking your own healthy meals next to impossible forcing you into yet another encounter with your pizza delivery guy. Still other more serious home injuries such as drowning, fire or carbon monoxide poisoning are frequently fatal.

Familiarizing yourself with common regional environmental hazards can be very helpful in maintaining a healthy home.  For example, black mold, which is relatively common in areas of high humidity and poor ventilation can be devastating to your respiratory system. Radon (a radioactive gas) is another respiratory hazard. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, radon occurs at elevated levels in more than 8 million homes in the United States (https://www.radon.com/radon_facts). Being aware of these environmental home hazards and knowing how to test for them can be crucial to maintaining a healthy home.

Avoiding many home safety hazards such as falls requires very little effort including, cleaning up clutter (and you’ll also feel happier living in a mess-free zone); removing tripping hazards (like loose carpeting); installing appropriate lighting; and taking your time and moving purposefully when navigating stairs. Store potential poisons including detergents, medications, and chemical products (like pesticides and drain cleaners) out of reach and out of sight of children -- inside the house as well as in the garage or shed. In addition, it's always best to lock them up. Always store chemicals in their original containers from the manufacturer. Do not transfer them to jugs or bottles. Never mix chemical products together as dangerous fumes can occur.  For more information about maintaining a safe and healthy home, there are many online resources that include valuable information, such as The National Safety Council (https://www.nsc.org/). Considering how your environment affects your health is crucial to the continuum of wellness, and your home is a great place to start!