Bedroom Fire Safety

fireIt seems that the nightly news carries coverage of at least one home fire a week during the winter months.

It may be a good time to share this fire safety message from the US Fire Safety Administration with your family members.

Bedroom Fires

Each year, fire claims the lives of 3,400 Americans and injures approximately 17,500. Bedrooms are a common area of fire origin. Nearly 600 lives are lost to fires that start in bedrooms.

Many of these fires are caused by misuse or poor maintenance of electrical devices, such as overloading extension cords or using portable space heaters too close to combustibles. Many other bedroom fires are caused by children who play with matches and lighters, careless smoking among adults, and arson.

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) and the Sleep Products Safety Council (SPSC) would like you to know that there are simple steps you can take to prevent the loss of life and property resulting from bedroom fires.

Kids and Fire: A Bad Match

Children are one of the highest risk groups for deaths in residential fires. At home, children usually play with fire – lighters, matches and other ignitables – in bedrooms, in closets, and under beds. These are “secret” places where there are a lot of things that catch fire easily.

  • Children of all ages set over 35,000 fires annually.
  • Every year over 400 children nine years and younger die in home fires.
  • Keep matches and lighters locked up and away from children. Check under beds and in closets for burnt matches, evidence your child may be playing with matches.
  • Teach your child that fire is a tool, not a toy.

Appliances Need Special Attention

Bedrooms are the most common room in the home where electrical fires start. Electrical fires are a special concern during winter months which call for more indoor activities and increases in lighting, heating, and appliance use.

  • Do not trap electric cords against walls where heat can build up.
  • Take extra care when using portable heaters. Keep bedding, clothes, curtains and other combustible items at least three feet away from space heaters.
  • Only use lab-approved electric blankets and warmers. Check to make sure the cords are not frayed.

Tuck Yourself In For A Safe Sleep

  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Replace mattresses made before the 2007 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard. Mattresses made since then are required by law to be safer.

Finally, having working smoke alarms dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. Place at least one smoke alarm on each level of your home and in halls outside bedrooms. And remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.


Bicycle Safety: An Issue for Adult Riders

BICYCLE

 Kids are not the only ones who have to practice bicycle safety. According to a press release from the Governors Highway Safety Association, adult bike fatalities are on the rise.

Press Release: Bicyclist Fatalities a Growing Problem for Key Groups

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The number of bicyclists killed on U.S. roadways is trending upward, particularly for certain subsets of the population, according to a recent report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). GHSA’s notes that yearly bicyclist deaths increased 16 percent between 2010 and 2012, while overall motor vehicle fatalities increased just one percent during the same time period.

The report’s author, former Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Chief Scientist Dr. Allan Williams, analyzed current and historical fatality data to uncover bicyclist crash patterns. There have been some remarkable changes. For example, adults 20 and older represented 84 percent of bicyclist fatalities in 2012, compared to only 21 percent in 1975. Adult males comprised 74 percent of the total number of bicyclists killed in 2012.

Bicycle fatalities are increasingly an urban phenomenon, accounting for 69 percent of all bicycle fatalities in 2012, compared with 50 percent in 1975. These changes correlate with an increase in bicycling commuters – a 62 percent jump since 2000, according to 2013 Census Bureau data.

While bicyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes increased in 22 states between 2010 and 2012, six states – California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Michigan and Texas – represented 54 percent of all fatalities.

“These are high population states with many urban centers,” pointed out Williams, “and likely reflect a high level of bicycle exposure and interaction with motor vehicles.”

There are some bicycle fatality data that remain unchanged over the decades. Bicyclists killed are predominantly males (88 percent in 2012), and lack of helmet use and alcohol impairment continue to contribute to bicyclist deaths. In 2012, two-thirds or more of fatally injured bicyclists were not wearing helmets, and 28 percent of riders age 16 and older had blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of .08 percent or higher, compared with 33 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers.

“What’s notable here,” said Dr. Williams, “is that the percentage of fatally injured bicyclists with high BACs has remained relatively constant since the early 1980s and did not mirror the sharp drop in alcohol-impaired driving that happened among passenger vehicle drivers in the 1980s and early 1990s.”

State Highway Safety Offices are giving bicyclist safety considerable attention, despite bicyclists representing two percent of overall motor vehicle-related fatalities, a proportion that has remained constant since 1975.

“Many states are dedicating resources to ensuring the safety of all roadway users, including bicyclists, by investing in educating bicyclists and motorists, promoting helmet use, enforcing motor vehicle laws and implementing infrastructure changes,” said Jonathan Adkins, GHSA Executive Director.

As an example, the New York Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee promotes helmet use by funding bicycle helmet distribution programs and proper fit training. In Florida, police officers are stopping bicyclists who ride without lights at night, providing lights to those who are less able to afford them and helping to affix them to bikes.

Adkins stressed that helmet laws are an effective countermeasure particularly with so many inexperienced riders expected to choose bicycling in the coming years. Twenty-one states have helmet laws for younger riders, but no state has a universal helmet law and twenty-nine states do not have any kind of bicycle helmet law.

On the engineering side, several states are adopting Complete Streets policies, which take into consideration all travel modes when building and/or improving existing roadway systems. They are also stepping up efforts to collect information on bicycle crash patterns and locations, which is critical for making informed decisions about countermeasures and resource allocation.

Adkins noted that while bicyclist fatalities are a problem in some states, unlike many highway safety challenges, this is not necessarily a national issue. Twenty-three states averaged five or fewer deaths per year between 2010 and 2012. This suggests a need to focus resources on those states and locations where bicyclist fatalities most often occur.

About GHSA
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit www.ghsa.org. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GHSAhq or follow us on Twitter at @GHSAHQ.

 

Medicines Can Hurt…Use and Store Carefully

medicines

Each year, nearly  500,000 calls to the Poison Control Center are about children ingesting medicines that belong predominately to parents and grandparents.

Safe Kids Worldwide shares the following tips about keeping your child safe from medicines that could have serious consequences for them.

Store Medicines Safely

  • Put all medicines up and away and out of sight including your own. Make sure that all medicines and vitamins are stored out of reach and out of sight of children. In 3 out of 4 emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the child got into medicine belonging to a parent or grandparent.
  • Consider places where kids get into medicine. Kids get into medication in all sorts of places, like in purses and nightstands.  In 67% of emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the medicine was left within reach of a child, such as in a purse, on a counter or dresser, or on the ground. Place purses and bags in high locations, and avoid leaving medicines on a nightstand or dresser.
  • Consider products you might not think about as medicines. Most parents store medicine up and away – or at least the products they consider to be medicine. They may not think about products such as diaper rash remedies, vitamins or eye drops as medicine, but they actually are and need to be stored safely.
  • Close your medicine caps tightly after every use. Choose child-resistant caps for medicine bottles, if you’re able to. If pill boxes or non-child resistant caps are the only option, it’s even more important to store these containers up high and out of sight when caring for kids. And remember, child-resistant does not mean child-proof, and some children will still be able to get into medicine given enough time and persistence.
  • Be alert to visitors’ medicine. Guests in your home may not be thinking about the medicine they brought with them in their belongings. In 43% of emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the medicine a child got into belonged to a relative, such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle. When you have guests in your home, offer to put purses, bags and coats out of reach of children to protect their property from a curious child.
  • Be alert to medicine in places your child visits. You know to store medicine safely in your home, but do you ever think about medicine safety when your child isn’t at home? Asking people your child visits to put their medicines in a safe place works for some parents, but it may feel socially awkward to others.  Another option is to take a look around to see if any medicines are stored within reach and deal with any risks in sight.
  • Even if you are tempted to keep it handy, put medicine out of reach after every use. When you need to give another dose in just a few hours, it may be tempting to keep medicine close at hand. But accidents can happen fast, and it only takes a few seconds for children to get into medicine that could make them very sick. Put medicine up and away after every use. And if you need a reminder, set an alarm on your watch or cell phone, or write yourself a note.

Give Medicines Safely

  • Use the dosing device that comes with the medicine. Proper dosing is important, particularly for young children. Kitchen spoons aren’t all the same, and a teaspoon and tablespoon used for cooking won’t measure the same amount as the dosing device.
  • Keep all medicines in their original packages and containers.
  • Take the time to read the label and follow the directions. Even if you have used the medicine before, sometimes the directions change about how much medicine to give.
  • Even if your child seems really sick, don’t give more medicine than the label says. It won’t help your child feel better faster, and it may cause harm.
  • Read the label and know what’s in the medicine. Take the time to read the label and follow the directions on your child’s medicine. Check the active ingredients listed on the label. Make sure you don’t give your child more than one medicine with the same active ingredient, because it puts your child at risk for an overdose.

Communicate to Caregivers

  • If you are depending on someone else to give your child medicine, communicate clearly to avoid double dosing or dosing errors. More than 67,000 parents call poison control centers about dosing errors each year.
  • Write clear instructions to other caregivers, including what medicine to give, when to give it and the correct dose.

Get Rid of Medicines Safely

  • Clean out your medicine cabinet. Reduce the risk of kids getting into medicine by getting rid of unused or expired medicine. Many communities have a medicine take-back program. This is an easy way to get rid of your unused or expired medicines.
  • To dispose of it yourself, pour the medicine into a sealable plastic bag. If the medicine is a pill, add water to dissolve it. Then add kitty litter, sawdust or coffee grounds to the plastic bag. You can add anything that mixes with the medicine to make it less appealing for children or pets.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that certain medicines are so dangerous they should be flushed down the toilet.

Talk to Your Kids about Medication Safety

  • Talk to your kids about medication safety. Even if their medicine tastes good, don’t compare it to candy to encourage kids to take it.
  • Speak with older kids about the dangers of misusing or abusing prescription or over-the-counter medicines.

Educate Grandparents

  • It is estimated that in 38 percent of ER visits involving a medicine poisoning, the medicine belonged to a grandparent. Talk to grandparents about being extra mindful with medicine or pillboxes when children are around.
  • Don’t forget to remind other family members and visitors as well.

Put the Poison Help Number in Your Phone

  • Put the toll-free number for the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) into your home and cell phones. You can also put the number on your refrigerator or another place in your home where babysitters and caregivers can see it. And remember, the poison help number is not just for emergencies, you can call with questions about how to take or give medicine.
  • If your child has collapsed, is not breathing, or has a seizure, call 911.
  • Do not make children vomit or give them anything unless directed by a professional.

You can download these tips here.

Download Tips

 

Before You Try a Weight Loss Supplement…

weightMany of us have vowed to lose weight in 2015. We all would like to find a quick fix, an easier path than dieting and exercising. We may be tempted to try one of those miracle weight loss supplements or foods. Before you do, please read what the FDA has to say about weight loss products.

Many so-called “miracle” weight loss supplements and foods (including teas and coffees) don’t live up to their claims. Worse, they can cause serious harm, say FDA regulators. The agency has found hundreds of products that are marketed as dietary supplements but actually contain hidden active ingredients (components that make a medicine effective against a specific illness) contained in prescription drugs, unsafe ingredients that were in drugs that have been removed from the market, or compounds that have not been adequately studied in humans.

“When the product contains a drug or other ingredient which is not listed as an ingredient we become especially concerned about the safety of the product,” says James P. Smith, M.D., an acting deputy director in FDA’s Office of Drug Evaluation.

Tainted Products

For example, FDA has found weight loss products tainted with the prescription drug ingredient sibutramine. This ingredient was in an FDA-approved drug called Meridia, which was removed from the market in October 2010 because it caused heart problems and strokes.

“We’ve also found weight-loss products marketed as supplements that contain dangerous concoctions of hidden ingredients including active ingredients contained in approved seizure medications, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants,” says Jason Humbert, a senior regulatory manager at FDA. Most recently, FDA has found a number of products marketed as dietary supplements containing fluoxetine, the active ingredient found in Prozac, a prescription drug marketed for the treatment of depression and other conditions. Another product contained triamterene, a powerful diuretic (sometimes known as “water pills”) that can have serious side-effects and should only be used under the supervision of a health care professional.

Many of these tainted products are imported, sold online, and heavily promoted on social media sites. Some can also be found on store shelves.

And if you’re about to take what you think of as “natural” dietary supplements, such as bee pollen or Garcinia cambogia, you should be aware that FDA has found some of these products also contain hidden active ingredients contained in prescription drugs.

“The only natural way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in,” says James P. Smith, M.D. That means a combination of healthful eating and physical activity.

Dietary Supplements are not FDA-Approved

Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (as amended by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994), dietary supplement firms do not need FDA approval prior to marketing their products. It is the company’s responsibility to make sure its products are safe and that any claims made about such products are true.

But just because you see a supplement product on a store shelf does not mean it is safe, Humbert says. FDA has received numerous reports of harm associated with the use of weight loss products, including increased blood pressure, heart palpitations (a pounding or racing heart), stroke, seizure and death. When safety issues are suspected, FDA must investigate and, when warranted, take steps to have these products removed from the market.

FDA has issued over 30 public notifications and recalled 7 tainted weight loss products in 2014. The agency also has issued warning letters, seized products, and criminally prosecuted people responsible for marketing these illegal diet products. In addition, FDA maintains an online list of tainted weight-loss products.

To help people with long-term weight management, FDA has approved prescription drugs such as Belviq, Qysmia, and Contrave, but these products are intended for people at least 18 years of age who:

  • have a body mass index (BMI, a standard measure of body fat) of 30 or greater (considered obese); or
  • have a BMI of 27 or greater (considered overweight) and have at least one other weight-related health condition.

Moreover, if you are going to embark on any type of weight control campaign, you should talk to your health care professional about it first, Welch says.

Know the Warning Signs

Look for potential warning signs of tainted products, such as:

  • promises of a quick fix, for example, “lose 10 pounds in one week.”
  • use of the words “guaranteed” or “scientific breakthrough.”
  • products marketed in a foreign language.
  • products marketed through mass e-mails.
  • products marketed as herbal alternatives to an FDA-approved drug or as having effects similar to prescription drugs.

Advice for Consumers

Generally, if you are using or considering using any product marketed as a dietary supplement, FDA suggests that you:

  • check with your health care professional or a registered dietitian about any nutrients you may need in addition to your regular diet.
  • ask yourself if it sounds too good to be true.
  • be cautious if the claims for the product seem exaggerated or unrealistic.
  • watch out for extreme claims such as “quick and effective” or “totally safe.”
  • be skeptical about anecdotal information from personal “testimonials” about incredible benefits or results from using a product.

If you suspect a product marketed as a dietary supplement sold online may be tainted, FDA urges you to report that information online. You or your health care professional can also report an illness or injury you believe to be related to the use of a dietary supplement by calling 1-800-FDA-1088 or visiting FDA online.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Updated January 5, 2015

 

Children and Holiday Vacation

After Christmas comes holiday vacation time, a time for outdoor fun activities for children.

children outdoorsThe American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following tips for keeping children safe while outdoors in the winter.

What to Wear

Dress infants and children warmly for outdoor activities. Several thin layers will keep them dry and warm. Don’t forget warm boots, gloves or mittens, and a hat. The rule of thumb for older babies and young children is to dress them in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions.

When participating in activities such as ice skating, sledding, snow skiing and snowboarding, consider having your child wear a helmet.

Sun Protection

The sun’s rays can still cause sunburn in the winter, especially when they reflect off snow. Make sure to cover your child’s exposed skin with sunscreen.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia develops when a child’s temperature falls below normal due to exposure to colder temperatures. It often happens when a youngster is playing outdoors in extremely cold weather without wearing proper clothing or when clothes get wet. It can occur more quickly in children than in adults.

As hypothermia sets in, the child may shiver and become lethargic and clumsy. Speech may become slurred and body temperature will decline in more severe cases. If you suspect your child is hypothermic, call 911 at once. Until help arrives, take the child indoors, remove any wet clothing, and wrap him in blankets or warm clothes.

Frostbite

Frostbite happens when the skin and outer tissues become frozen. This condition tends to happen on extremities like the fingers, toes, ears and nose. They may become pale, gray and blistered. At the same time, the child may complain that his/her skin burns or has become numb.

If frostbite occurs, bring the child indoors and place the frostbitten parts of her body in warm (not hot) water. Warm washcloths may be applied to frostbitten nose, ears and lips. Do not rub the frozen areas. After a few minutes, dry and cover the child with clothing or blankets. Give him/her something warm to drink.

If the numbness continues for more than a few minutes, call your doctor.

Frostbite facts from Rhode Island Hospital’s Burn Center.

Supervision

Children should be supervised while participating in all winter outdoor activities. Older children’s need for adult supervision depends on their maturity and skill. If older children are not with an adult, they should always at least be accompanied by a friend. Never let your child sled, skate, ski or snowboard alone.

Ice Skating

Allow children to skate only on approved surfaces. Check for signs posted by local police or recreation departments, or call your local police department to find out which areas have been approved. Advise your child to:

  • Skate in the same direction as the crowd.
  • Avoid darting across the ice.
  • Never skate alone.
  • Not chew gum or eat candy while skating.

Sledding

  • Keep sledders away from motor vehicles.
  • Keep young children separated from older children.
  • Sledding feet first or sitting up, instead of lying down head-first, may prevent head injuries.
  • Use steerable sleds, not snow disks or inner tubes.
  • Sleds should be structurally sound and free of sharp edges and splinters, and the steering mechanism should be well lubricated.
  • Sled slopes should be free of obstructions like trees or fences, be covered in snow not ice, not be too steep (slope of less than 30º), and end with a flat runoff.
  • Avoid sledding in crowded areas.

 Snow Skiing and Snowboarding

  • Children should be taught to ski or snowboard by a qualified instructor in a program designed for children.
  • Equipment should fit the child. Skiers should wear safety bindings that are adjusted at least every year. Snowboarders should wear gloves with built-in wrist guards. Eye protection or goggles should also be used.
  • Slopes should fit the ability and experience of the skier or snowboarder.
  • Avoid crowded slopes. Avoid skiing in areas with trees and other obstacles.

 Snowmobiling

  • The AAP recommends that children under age 16 not operate snowmobiles and that children under age 6 never ride on snowmobiles.

  • Do not use a snowmobile to pull a sled or skiers.
  • Wear goggles and a safety helmet approved for use on motorized vehicles like motorcycles.
  • Travel at safe speeds.
  • Never use alcohol or other drugs before or during snowmobiling.
  • Stay on marked trails, away from roads, water, railroads and pedestrians.