The Hidden Hazards of Holiday Shopping

Shopping is a necessary part of the holiday season, and staying safe while shopping is key to its enjoyment.

We are always reminded of the do’s and don’ts of shopping safety: park in a well-lit area, don’t walk to your car alone, have keys ready, know your surroundings, don’t let electronics distract you, carry only small amounts of cash, and avoid holding too many bags or carrying a large purse, but there are other shopping hazards lurking about that we don’t think of. Among them are:

Obstructions: Overcrowded merchandise in the aisles can lead to trips or falls.

Overhead boxes: Warehouses store large, heavy boxes on high shelves. These boxes have been known to fall, causing fatalities.  Unfortunately, stores don’t warn you to look out for falling items. Instead, it is up to you to always be aware of precariously perched boxes overhead.

Forklift Operators: Stay clear of any areas where a forklift is operating, as well as the aisles on either side of a moving forklift.  Operators have been known to topple boxes from the opposite side of a shelf, causing boxes to fall and crush unsuspecting shoppers.

Furniture: Unsecured bookcases, T.V. consoles, lumber and other heavy items can fall on children or shoppers. Many stores secure these items with bungee cords or restraining bars, but the restraining devices have been known to break as well; so always use caution and don’t let children stand where the item might fall.

Slips/Falls: Thousands of shoppers every year suffer serious injury due to slip and falls. Be aware of slippery floors, uneven pavement, bad lighting, and loose or icy carpet, all of which can cause injury from an unwanted fall.

Shopping Carts:  Be sure they’re not top heavy, which can cause them to tip over on a child walking beside them. Be aware of any overzealous shoppers or employees who might run into you while not paying attention. And as always, if you put a child in a cart make sure they’re strapped in to prevent them from falling out.

Reaching Overhead for Merchandise:  Always have employees get heavy items off the top shelves. They have special equipment that allows them to reach the items safely. Shoppers have sustained brain and spinal injuries from falling merchandise when trying to reach it above their heads.

Retail stores have a duty to maintain a safe shopping environment for their customers; however, should you find yourself injured while shopping this season take steps to ensure that your injuries are taken care of quickly:

  • If necessary, call 911
  • Talk to witnesses/employees who saw the accident. Make sure to get their name & number
  • Get the manager.  Have him/her complete an incident report and find out who the store’s insurer is. If possible, get a copy of the report.
  • Take pictures of the area, being sure to get a copy of whatever caused the accident (i.e., water on the floor, a fallen object, etc.)
  • Go see your doctor

As always, know your surroundings and stay safe while shopping this holiday season. Let an employee know if you see liquid in the aisle, a heavy item that’s about to fall, or any other safety issue.  The company will appreciate the heads-up, and you will likely have prevented what could have been a serious injury to an unsuspecting customer.

Harmful to Children: Detergent Pods

Children are attracted to anything colorful, especially if it looks like candy.  And those colorful detergent pods we use to clean laundry and dishes can look very appetizing.   In fact, they look just like candy or juice; they’re individually wrapped, are brightly colored, and come packaged in what looks like a candy jar.  It’s no wonder that children want to taste them.

We all know any laundry detergent is harmful if swallowed, but these individually wrapped pods can be especially caustic because of their contents. Unlike regular powder detergent, the single-use pods are filled with highly concentrated detergent, which is then wrapped in a plastic covering that dissolves when exposed to water or saliva.   When swallowed, these pods can cause almost immediate distress, and the effects can be far worse than that of regular detergent.

Symptoms of pod exposure can include vomiting, coughing or choking, a mental status change and respiratory distress.  On several occasions, children have been hospitalized and had to be put on a ventilator or intubated to help them breathe.

Exposure to these pods is on the rise.  According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), there were 16,738 laundry packet exposures (in children 5 and under) reported to Poison Centers between 2012-2013 combined.  Already, in the first 7 months of 2014, there have been 9,935 reported cases of children 5 and under being exposed to the single-load laundry packets.

Below are some safety tips to follow if you use the more convenient, single-use detergent pods:

  • If you have small children then it’s best to use powder detergent. It’s not as attractive to children and the injuries are usually less severe should a child be exposed to it.
  • If you use Single-use pods then be sure to seal them tightly and store them in a high place, out of reach and sight of children.  It’s best to keep them in a locked cabinet.
  • If you use the pods, be extra vigilant about where you set them down.  Don’t set them down within reach of a child for even a second.  It only takes one second for a child to grab it and bite it, which is all it takes to poison the child, or cause burns to their face or mouth.

Below are tips for what to do if you suspect exposure:

  • If the pod is in a child’s mouth, remove it immediately
  • Gently wipe the child’s mouth
  • Wash the child’s face and hands (to prevent them from spreading it on their face or getting it in their eyes).

Call your Poison Control Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222.

















Halloween Safety Shouldn’t be Scary

Halloween brings with it the fun of dressing-up in scary costumes, bobbing for apples and knocking door-to-door for a “trick-or-treat”.  While all of this can be fun, it’s important to stay safe as well.

On Halloween night there is usually lots of activity going on in neighborhoods.  It’s that one night of the year when people use golf carts that usually sit in their driveways, or pull tractors that are overflowing with trick-or-treaters.  All of this at the same time lots of children are running around from door-to-door, crossing the street and dodging the motorized vehicles.  While I love Halloween, the safety of the children is really what frightens me on this scary night.

Although Halloween safety tips are given year-after-year, they always bear repeating:

Light-up: Make sure each child trick-or-treating has some sort of light that allows them to see where they’re going and allows others to see them.  I like small flashlights, reflective tape, and those light-up necklaces or bracelets that illuminate when you break the seal.

Travel from door-to-door: Be sure to walk and not run from house-to-house and only go to houses that are well lit.  When possible, stay on sidewalks and not in the street.  Look both ways before crossing the street, and go to all the houses on one side of the road before crossing over to the other.

Costumes: Test make-up before wearing it to ensure that you don’t have an allergy.  Make sure you won’t trip on your costume and that it is flame-resistant.  Be careful not to walk next to lit candles so that a flowing costume doesn’t accidentally catch on fire.

Food:  So how worried should parents be about the candy their children eat? There’s always the worry that a razor blade, a needle, poison or drugs have been secretly hidden in the candy.  In fact, this year carries some added concern that, because of its legalization, marijuana-laced candy will be easily offered to children.  While this could happen, it’s very unlikely.  According to Snopes, which has thoroughly investigated decades worth of alleged halloween horrors, the only known cases (and they are very rare) of poisoning or drugs can be traced back to people who knew the victims, with only one case of marijuana-laced snickers being given to children accidentally.  With regards to razors or needles, this has occurred, but it is usually a prank played by someone who knows the recipient and there have been no known serious injuries as a result.

As always, parents should inspect candy before children eat it.  This means that kids need to understand they should not eat any of the candy while they are out trick-or-treating.  If the candy is not in commercial packaging, or the packaging is torn or looks old or tampered with then throw it out.  A bigger concern is probably to make sure that children do not eat candy they may be allergic to or could choke on.

I hope that everyone has a safe and happy Halloween.


What Do You Need To Know When Choosing a Hospital?

Do you have a hospital you automatically go to for medical procedures?  Most of us do. But being the largest or most popular hospital doesn’t always mean the best.

A recent study by Consumer Reports revealed that patients should choose a hospital based on the experience of the medical facility and their surgeon, as well as facts about patient results, not on emotions or a hospital’s popularity.

When choosing a hospital, ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s the percentage of patients who contract dangerous infections while in the hospital?  Are the infections due to uncleanliness of the hospital and/or improper washing-up of the staff?  Are they due to a lack of patient care?
  • What’s the percentage of patients who have to be readmitted after they’re discharged, or who die while in the hospital?
  • How many times has the hospital performed the medical procedure you’re having?  The more the better.
  • Are you getting the personal attention you need?  Although they are usually very good hospitals, teaching hospitals have a frequently changing staff, which may make it difficult for you to communicate with doctors and nurses.

Consumer Reports listed several websites to help you find the information you need to make the best decisions. All of the sites explain very well why the data is important and how it was collected.  I’ve researched each of them and narrowed them down based on ease of use and information available: – Plug in your zip code, choose 3 hospitals from the list and compare information.  Click a tab at the top of the page to compare things such as Readmissions, Complications and Deaths. – This website has a vast amount of educational information that I would encourage anyone to read. However, if you want to review hospital specific information, choose Quality Check under the Quick Links box and search your hospital, state or zip code. – Very easy to use. Type your hospital and search.  Data reviewed for all general acute care hospitals.  More than 2,600 hospitals received a score. – Very easy to use. Type your hospital and search.  The tabs across the top allow you to review such things as patient safety and readmission rates.  If you look at the details you are able to see how many procedures the results were based on.

I hope this will help you and your family make informed decisions about hospital care.






Over-Hydration in Student Athletes

Information is everywhere right now about the dangers of heat exhaustion in high school athletes.  After all, football players are training long hours in full gear during the hottest part of the summer.  But what about the often overlooked threat of overhydrating, which can be equally life threatening.

Yesterday, a 17-year old high school football player in Georgia died as a result of drinking too many liquids during practice.   According to news reports, the teenager drank 2-gallons of water followed by 2-gallons of Gatorade.  The excess liquid in his body caused massive brain swelling, which ultimately led to his death.

Over-hydration occurs when a person takes in more fluid than the body can excrete, causing sodium in the body to become dangerously low.

The early symptoms of over-hydration include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • headache
  • confusion or disorientation

More severe symptoms include:

  • muscle weakness, spasms or cramps
  • seizures
  • unconsciousness
  • coma

How much should you drink? 

Student athletes are constantly being reminded to drink enough water.  So how do they know when they’ve had enough?   Typically, individuals should avoid drinking more than one liter of fluid per hour, as it takes one hour for one liter of fluid to leave the gut.  According to, football athletes should follow this general guideline (remember that the fluids should be drunk over a period of time, not all at once):

  • Drink 16 ounces (2 cups) of a sports drink one hour before exercise
  • Drink 20-40 ounces (2-1/2 to 5 cups) of fluid per hour of practice
  • Drink 16-24 ounces (2 to 3 cups) of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during exercise (Ideally, players should weigh themselves before and after practice to know how much weight they lost and how much they should drink to make up for that weight loss)

It’s a balancing act between getting enough fluid without getting too much.  Generally, it depends on how much and what type of exercise a person is doing, how hot it is outside and how much a person is sweating, urine color and body weight.  As always, if you experience any of the above symptoms you should stop exercise immediately and get medical help.