More Seniors Falling Victim to Escalator Injuries
A doubling of accidents in 15-year span may reflect increasingly mobile lifestyles, experts say.
FRIDAY, March 21 (HealthDay News) -- Older Americans are being injured during slips and falls on escalators at increasing rates, a new study finds.
The rate of injuries to older adults riding escalators more than doubled from 1991 to 2005, said study lead author Dr. Joseph O'Neil, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, and an expert on injury prevention.
"Escalators are a safe means of getting from one floor to another for older Americans, but you do need to be careful, especially if you have mobility, balance or vision problems," he said.
O'Neil and his colleagues published their findings in the March issue of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.
Reviewing records from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the research team found that nearly 40,000 adults age 65 and older were injured on escalators between 1991 and 2005. In fact, the rate rose more than two-fold during that period: from 4.9 injuries per every 100,000 older Americans in 1991 to 11 injuries per 100,000 people by 2005.
The trend of increasing escalator accidents is likely related to shifts in lifestyle, O'Neil speculated. "Older adults are now more active at an older age than probably ever before," he noted, adding that the mean age of the accident victims in the study was 80 years old.
But while escalator accidents are an important matter of public safety for the elderly, they should not be blown out of proportion, O'Neil said. "This is a small portion of the total number of injuries that occur in older adults," he said.
Most of the injuries were not serious. Only 8 percent of the injured were admitted to a hospital after evaluation in an emergency department. The most common injuries were to the lower extremities (about 26 percent) and the head (25 percent). The leading type of injury was soft-tissue injuries (54 percent), such as sprains, followed by cuts (about 22 percent) and fractures (almost 16 percent). Women accounted for more than 73 percent of escalator injuries.
The new study does provide insight into the ways in which injuries take place on escalators among older adults, however.
The most frequent cause of escalator injury was a slip, trip or fall, which accounted for 85 percent of all injuries in the study, the researchers said.
"Most of the slip-trip-or-fall injuries happened while a person was standing on the escalator, not trying to step on or off or pass by another person," O'Neil said.
Stepping on or off the escalator only accounted for a small portion (14 percent) of slips, trips and falls. Injuries caused by walking up or down while riding an escalator were rare. Also, only 3 percent of the total injuries resulted from a garment, shoe, bag or purse becoming caught in the escalator, the study found.
The reasons that older adults slip, trip and fall on escalators are likely very similar to the causes of injuries in other situations, O'Neil said. "Factors that could contribute to a fall include poor equilibrium, decreased visual acuity, coordination problems, changes in muscle strength and balance, and lack of agility," he said.
According to Jessie VanSwearingen, associate professor of physical therapy at the University of Pittsburgh, vision problems are probably the most important cause of escalator falls.
"Older people are more reliant on vision for their balance than younger people are," she said.
Escalators are very disruptive to vision because both the escalator and the surrounding environment are moving, she added.
One way to prevent these accidents is to "stabilize your vision," VanSwearingen said, offering the following tips:
• Do not look down at the moving steps, which is disorienting.
• Find an object ahead of you and focus on it.
• Don't look side to side at distractions or displays.
"If you need a cane or walker to get around, then you should definitely use an elevator," O'Neil added.
Prevention of Drowning in Infants, Children, and Adolescents Safety Tips
A swimming pool in the yard can be very dangerous for children. If possible, do not put a swimming pool in your yard until your children are older than 5 years. If you already have a pool, protect your children from drowning by doing the following:
• Never leave your children alone in or near the pool, even for a moment.
• You must put up a fence to separate your house from the pool. Most young children who drown in pools wander out of the house and fall into the pool. Install a fence at least 4 feet high around all 4 sides of the pool. This fence will completely separate the pool from the house and play area of the yard. Use gates that self-close and self-latch, with latches higher than your children's reach.
• A power safety cover that meets the standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) adds to the protection of your children but should not be used in place of the fence between your house and the pool. Even fencing around your pool and using a power safety cover will not prevent all drownings.
• Keep rescue equipment (such as a shepherd's hook or life preserver) and a telephone by the pool.
• Do not let your child use air-filled "swimming aids" because they are not a substitute for approved life vests and can be dangerous.
• Anyone watching young children around a pool should learn CPR and be able to rescue a child if needed. Stay within an arm's length of your child.
• Remove all toys from the pool after use so children aren't tempted to reach for them.
• After the children are done swimming, secure the pool so they can't get back into it.
Remember, teaching your child how to swim DOES NOT mean your child is safe in water.
WATER SAFETY FOR YOUR SCHOOL-AGE CHILD
Swimming and playing in water can give your child much pleasure and good exercise. But you must take steps to prevent your child from drowning.
• Never let your child swim in any body of water without an adult watching.
• Be sure the adult watching your child knows how to swim, get emergency help, and perform CPR.
• Keep a life preserver and shepherd's hook in the pool area to help pull a child to the edge of the pool when necessary.
• Teach your child safety rules and make sure they are obeyed.
-Never swim alone.
-Never dive into water except when permitted by an adult who knows the depth of the water and who has checked for underwater objects.
-Always use a life jacket when on a boat, fishing, or playing in a river or stream.
• Caution your child about the risks of drowning during the winter by falling through thin ice.
• Don't let young children and children who cannot swim use inflatable toys or mattresses in water that is above the waist.
• Watch children closely when they are playing near standing water, wells, open post holes, or irrigation or drainage ditches.
• Teach your child to swim once he or she is ready (usually around 5 years old).
LIFE JACKETS AND LIFE PRESERVERS
If your family enjoys boating, sailing, and canoeing on lakes, rivers, and streams, be sure your children wear the correct life jackets. If you do, they will be able to take part in these activities more safely.
Many children and adolescents think life jackets and life preservers are hot, bulky, and ugly. This is no longer necessarily true. Newer models look better, feel better, and provide increased protection.
Life preservers and life jackets are required by many states and must be present on all boats traveling on bodies of water supervised by the US Coast Guard.
Parents should choose from the following personal flotation devices (PFDs) approved by the US Coast Guard. Child PFD approvals are based on the child's weight. Check the user weight on the label.
TYPE 1: This jacket floats the best. It is designed to turn most people who are unconscious in the water from the face-down position to an upright and slightly backward position. This jacket helps the person to stay in that position for a long time. It is to be used in open water and oceans. It is available in only 2 sizes: 1 size for adults more than 90 pounds and 1 size for children less than 90 pounds.
TYPE 2: This jacket can turn a person upright and slightly backwards but not as much as the Type 1 jacket. It may not always help an unconscious person to float face up. It is comfortable and comes in many sizes for children.
TYPE 3: This jacket is designed for conscious users in calm, inland water. It is very comfortable and comes in many styles. This life jacket is often used for water sports and should be used only when it is expected that the rescue can be done quickly.
TYPE 4: A life preserver is a cushion or ring and is not worn. It is designed to be used in two ways. It can be grasped and held until the person is rescued, or it can be thrown to someone in the water until he or she is rescued. It is not a toy and should only be used in a rescue situation. Check the label on the life preserver to be sure it meets US Coast Guard or state regulations.
Use only life jackets and life preservers that are tested by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and approved by the US Coast Guard. If they are, they will have a label that says so. Life jackets are labeled by type (1, 2, 3, or 4) and for whom they are designed (child or adult).
Remember, unless your children wear or use life jackets and life preservers, they are not protected. Also, life jackets and life preservers should never be substitutes for adult supervision.
ALWAYS REMEMBER THESE TIPS
Your children should wear life jackets at all times when on boats or near bodies of water.
Teach your child how to put on his or her own life jacket.
Make sure your child is comfortable wearing a life jacket and knows how to use it.
Make sure the life jacket is the right size for your child. The jacket should not be loose. It should always be worn as instructed with all straps belted.
Blow-up water wings, toys, rafts, and air mattresses should never be used as life jackets or life preservers. They are not safe.
Adults should wear life jackets for their own protection and to set a good example.