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Many Falls, and Resulting ER Visits, Can Be Prevented

SATURDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Falls are a leading cause of injury in the United States, but some simple precautions can help prevent them, experts say.

"It's important to look around your everyday environment and minimize the risk . . . not only for yourself, but for others as well. There is a reason that unintentional falls are common injuries with our patients. They can happen at any time, any place and happen to anyone," Dr. Sandra Schneider, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians said in an ACEP news release.

Accidental falls are the leading injury-related reason why Americans seek emergency medical care, with nearly 9 million visits a year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Falls are the leading cause (33 percent) of accidental home injury deaths and account for more than 40 percent of nonfatal injuries, the Home Safety Council has reported. The two highest risk age groups are children under 5 years and adults older than 70.

"A fall can be a sentinel event in the life of an older person, potentially marking the beginning of a serious decline in function or the symptom of a new or worsening medical condition," Schneider said. "Identifying the cause of the fall and making appropriate interventions to improve function are as critical as treating injuries if future falls are to be prevented and quality of life and longevity are to be improved."

Here are some ACEP tips for preventing falls in the home:

  • Get rid of clutter in your home and make sure that stairs and walkways are kept clear of objects.
  • Keep tops and bottoms of stairs well lit, and leave nightlights on in the bedroom, hall and bathroom.
  • Repair or replace any loose stairway carpeting or boards.
  • Add handgrip bars in bathrooms and shower areas. This is especially important for the elderly or those with disabilities. The bottoms of tubs and showers should have a non-slip surface.
  • In homes with elderly people, remove throw rugs and tack down larger rugs.
  • In homes with young children, use locking gates near stairs and install window guards with quick release mechanisms that are easily opened in case of a fire.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers more fall prevention tips.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Academy of Emergency Physicians, news release, Oct. 19, 2010

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