Life is a dangerous proposition. From the moment we enter the world it tries to take us out, or so it seems. Germs and pathogens attack us from all sides. We are directed to eat sensibly, exercise, and avoid killers such as stress and unhealthy foods, all in an attempt to preserve our mortal existence for as long as we possibly can. Yet we persistently place ourselves in harm’s way, often without being aware of the dangers surrounding us. When we are conscious of danger we normally guard ourself against it by exercising additional caution. Such a reaction is sensible.
But all too often we are in considerable danger without being aware of it. Some of the most common activities of existence are the most dangerous we encounter on a daily basis. The routine nature of such activities makes us insensible to the harm to which we expose ourselves. Here are the 10 most dangerous things most of us do on a nearly daily basis. Nearly all of them can be minimized with some extra awareness and attention.
10. Bathing or showering
Most people are aware of the dangers posed by electrical devices in the bathroom. Safety devices to prevent electrocution by hair dryers, fans, and other electrical conveniences largely reduce those dangers. Yet the bathroom remains one of the most dangerous rooms in the home. Slips and falls pose the greatest danger. Unsecured bath mats and throw rugs present the potential for serious injuries due to falls, as do slippery wet surfaces. The bathroom can also be a source for toxic mold, introduced into the atmosphere from unseen nooks and crannies.
Just stepping into and out of a bathtub, whether it has been used for a bath or shower, is a major source of injury in the bathroom. Other potential sources for injuries include cuts from razors or scissors, burns from curling irons, and head injuries from contact with open cabinet doors or other sharp corners. All too often we enter the bathroom during our groggiest condition of the day, leading to stubbed and broken toes as we grope about in the semi-dark. About 80% of in-home falls occur in the bathroom. The potential of striking one’s head on an unyielding object renders them potentially severe.
9. Cooking our meals
Having survived one’s morning ablutions and repairing to the kitchen for breakfast, one is not free from danger. Over 65% of all home fires begin in the kitchen. More than 300,000 Americans suffer injuries each year from kitchen knives. Cluttered counters, unnecessary throw rugs, and pets underfoot all contribute to kitchen injuries every day. But the chief direct cause of kitchen injuries is inattention to what one is doing. Distractions from spouses, children, television, radio, and the telephone lead to unattended foods bursting into flame, knives to slip, and emergency room visits replacing the day’s plans.
Of course, many kitchen injuries are attributed to less than intelligent use of tools, such as using a sharp knife to break the seam on a particularly stubborn jar lid, or submerging sharp knives in soap suds, where they lurk unseen awaiting an incautious hand thrust into the sink. But the major causes of kitchen injuries are inattention and clutter. Turning on a stove burner and leaving butter to melt in a pan while returning momentarily to a task in another room is unwise. It is also dangerous, as statistics clearly show.
8. Using stairs
Some people choose to take the stairs, rather than an elevator or escalator, whenever possible. They consider it beneficial to cardiovascular health, and for the most part they are correct. Yet stairs are a major cause of accidents, for a variety of reasons. One of course is slippery surfaces, which cause the loss of grip and an often severe fall. Carpeted staircases with worn surfaces also present the possibility of snagged heels, another source of falls which lead to leg, back, head, and other injuries. Dim lighting adds to the dangers, as do items left on the stairs by others.
The danger of tripping, slipping, or otherwise losing one’s balance and suffering a debilitating fall on a staircase can easily be minimized by simply using the handrail. Presuming, of course, the handrail is in the proper state of maintenance. Stairway accidents are the second leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States, with over a million injuries annually. Roughly 12,000 of those injuries prove fatal.
7. Talking too much
In today’s polarized society, in which virtually everything is disputed along socio-political lines, talking can be dangerous. Words overheard by those who disagree can easily lead to confrontation, dispute, and worse. Of course, one is free to express one’s opinion, however a little discretion when in public should be considered. Yet political and social disagreements are not the only danger posed by talking too much, whether socially, at work, or even at home.
Experts agree that talking too much can lead to dry vocal cords, which may lead to more dangerous conditions, including inflammation, polyps, and even pre-cancerous conditions. They recommend listening, rather than attempting to dominate the conversation, while keeping one’s vocal cords dampened. Water is the preferred liquid to consume when delivering lengthy remarks; alcohol and caffeinated drinks merely aggravate the dryness. Oh, and talking on a cell phone while it is charging is extremely dangerous. A faulty charger or battery could easily explode, causing burns to hands and face, as well as other potential injuries.
We’ve all been told that texting while driving is dangerous, to ourselves and to our fellow drivers with whom we share the road, as well as the pedestrians walking alongside. It is so dangerous that 48 states, the District of Columbia, and the American territories of Guam, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico have all made the practice illegal. Yet all of us see drivers continuing to drive while their eyes are cast down to their phone, rather than on the road ahead. Texting is the number one cause of distracted driving, but it is far from the only one (see below).
Texting is also dangerous while walking, whether in city streets, suburban pathways, or even during a leisurely stroll in the woods. It’s particularly dangerous while crossing streets. Between 2005 and 2010 the number of emergency room visits because of injuries incurred while texting while walking doubled, according to a study by The Ohio State University. Walking into unseen obstacles, such as mailboxes or lampposts, opening doors, stepping into traffic, or simply colliding with other pedestrians are all hazards exacerbated by inattention to one’s surroundings. While many Americans consider such accidents to be merely embarrassing, serious injuries occur with increasing frequency, as studies show.
5. Distracted driving
While texting while driving is a major cause of distracted driving, it is far from the only one, and all are dangerous in the extreme. For example, all drivers have spied, from time to time, a fellow motorist engrossed in the intricacies of a mighty air-drum solo, hands thrashing the air within the vehicle with considerable aplomb, to the thrills of an unseen audience. Other distractions included rummaging behind the driver’s seat for something temporarily lost in the back seat. Pets, unsecured in the vehicle, often distract our fellow motorists. Americans are quick to ascribe such behavior as these to others, slow to admit them themselves.
Using rear view mirrors to apply or adjust makeup is another frequently viewed sight on the highways. Finding another radio station or other music source (preparatory for another drum solo?) is common, as is reading, programming a GPS device, reviewing videos on tablets or phones, ordering dinner, or being distracted by other drivers involved in these or other activities. By the way, placing one’s feet on the dashboard while riding in the front passenger seat is another frequently seen posture, particularly in the warmer months. Here’s what could happen should the airbag deploy, for whatever reason.
4. Spending too much time before a device screen
It’s fairly well-known that too much time before a screen daily causes various issues ranging from relatively minor discomforts to serious eye problems. Dry eyes, red eyes, and tearing are all common afflictions from too much staring at screens, and though they can lead to more serious issues they are unlikely to be fatal. Others include stiff necks, cramping in hands and arms, sore backs, and other posture-related issues. More serious issues also are attributed to excessive screen time, defined by most experts as four hours or more per day.
Among them are serious cardiovascular events including heart attacks and strokes. The causes of these dangers are multifold. One is that excessive screen time reduces the amount of time devoted to healthful exercise, and increases the amount of time one is engaged in sedentary activity. That same sedentary activity increases stress, whether from work related events, or from reactions to games and other entertainments present on the screen. Another danger presented by excessive screen time is a reduction in quality sleep. Medical professionals have long linked poor-quality sleep to serious health problems such as hypertension, diabetes, and poor diets leading to obesity.
It’s difficult to delineate the border between healthy debate and arguing. Debate can ease the resolution of issues, identify potential solutions and explore their applications. Arguing frequently merely increases differences, adding to tensions, anxiety and stress. It can also, through poorly-chosen words and phrases, make a bad situation worse, leading to deteriorating relationships, increased hostility and insecurities. Arguing with anyone causes increases in stress, tension, and frustration. But it is particularly dangerous when it occurs between spouses, couples, or partners. Inflammations arising from leaky gut syndrome, itself linked to arguing between couples, can lead to all kinds of long-term hazards.
Among them are diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, increased risk of hypertension, and other serious diseases and health issues. It can also lead to loss of self-esteem, depression, excessive drinking and other substance abuse, and digestive disorders such as ulcers. While disagreements between couples are all but inevitable, allowing them to disintegrate into chronic arguments is dangerous to both short-term and long-term health.
2. Eating or drinking non-intoxicating beverages while driving
There are few (though they still exist) who would deny that drinking intoxicating beverages before and while driving is a particularly dangerous proposition. Nonetheless, driving while under the influence of intoxicating beverages remains a problem, as some believe “it couldn’t happen to me.” At the same time, driving while drinking non-intoxicating beverages is also a dangerous proposition, as is eating while driving. Ubiquitous drive-thru windows allow drivers to return to the road intent on converting their vehicle into a diner on wheels, regardless of the meal to be consumed. As with other means of driving distracted, it presents dangers of which most are unaware.
That is, until scalding hot coffee spills into the driver’s lap, causing both pain and a reaction which diverts attention from the road to a more immediate emergency. Spills caused by deconstructing bacon-mushroom double-cheeseburgers force the driver to focus on protecting wardrobe to the detriment of vehicle control. Cold beverages erupt from their perch in the cupholder to slosh about the vehicle, requiring an immediate cleanup regardless of what speed the vehicle is travelling down the road. Eating and drinking in a vehicle is dangerous, yet as with most of the dangers presented here is encountered nearly every day. And as with most of the dangers here, it is most often the other guy doing it.
Whether drunk or sober, distracted or focused, the single most dangerous event faced by most people daily is driving or riding in an automobile. Besides the hazards of the road, amplified by fellow motorists less dedicated to the task than oneself, driving presents a multitude of dangers. Driving accidents cause more deaths among Americans between the ages of 1 and 34 than any other cause. According to the Institute for Transportation Engineers, an estimated 120 people die on American roads every day from automobile-related accidents. Few such accidents are unavoidable. Should the same number die in aviation related accidents the public outrage would be vocal and widespread. Yet Americans largely shrug off the carnage.
Compliance with speed laws, other traffic laws, laws restricting distracted driving, and better driver’s education, would no doubt reduce the number of fatalities. In the midst of such slaughter, most Americans (64%) consider themselves better drivers than the majority of their peers. It would seem such confidence is misplaced. Take a look at the drivers around you next time you are on the road to see if you agree. But don’t allow yourself to become distracted. Even if you are the most focused driver on the road, you are likely in the most danger you will encounter for the rest of the day. Good luck.