10 Objects That Cause the Most ER Visits

If you want to avoid a trip to the emergency room, you're going to need to be careful around the house.
©Ryan McVay/Thinkstock

When you think about why you might go to the emergency room, maybe broken bones, chest pain or symptoms of a stroke come to mind. Nearly 130 million people visited a U.S. emergency room in 2009, and stomach and abdominal pain, fevers and chest pain were cited as the top three most common reasons for those ER visits [source: Brown]. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that just about 42.5 million of those ER visits were for injury treatment, including patients with fractures, sprains and strains, head injuries, contusions (bruising that hasn't broken the skin), and superficial injuries, burns and poisoning among other complaints.

Many of those typical injuries are caused by accidents, and sometimes those accidents involve common objects in our lives. We've put together a list of 10 objects that are frequently implicated in those injuries -- let's begin in the bathroom.


10: The Bathroom

It may be the picture of modern minimalist design, but if you're not careful, your bathroom can be one of the most dangerous spaces in your home.
©Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Thinkstock

OK, so while this is a room rather than an object, it's the objects within this room that caused more than 430,000 visits to the emergency room in 2010 [source: NEISS].

By far the most unsafe activity in the bathroom is getting out of the shower or bathtub. In 2008, 68 percent of reported adult injuries in emergency rooms were tub- and shower-related, especially getting out of the bathtub or shower. While just slightly more than 2 percent of bathroom injuries happen getting into the tub, the rate of injury jumps to almost 10 percent upon stepping out [source: CDC].


It's also prudent to be careful around the toilet. More than 14 percent of bathroom-related injuries happen while sitting on or standing up from using the toilet -- and that doesn't count the 9 percent who report being injured by overexertion [source: CDC].

9: Heavy Furniture

Injuries resulting from lifting and moving heavy furniture such as sofas (and sofa beds), chairs, tables, desks, shelving and storage compartments sent nearly 1,250,000 people to the emergency room in 2010 [source: NEISS]. The complaints? Sprains and strains, especially to the neck and back.

Improperly lifting heavy or awkwardly shaped objects is one of the leading causes of lower back pain. When you lift with your back rather than your leg muscles, twist while lifting or attempt to lift an object that's just too heavy for you without a buddy to help, you risk straining, over-stretching or tearing muscle (ligaments, too, can be over-stretched or torn).


Also watch out for injury from above. Being accidentally struck by an object that falls from a high storage shelf is another common reason for visiting the ER.

8: Bicycles

Wearing a helmet is vital for all bicyclists.

More than 541,000 people visit the emergency room every year in the U.S. as a result of bicycle-related injuries [source: CDC]. Be safe: Wear a helmet.

As many as 85 percent of sports-related head injuries could have been avoided by properly wearing a helmet [source: AANS].


Choose a helmet that is approved by The Snell Memorial Foundation, American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) to ensure its safety features are up to the task of protecting you. It should fit comfortably and snugly -- double-check that it touches your head on all sides and doesn't move around while you wear it.

In addition to wearing a helmet, consider other safety equipment such as gloves, mouth guards and reflective materials.

7: Beds and Mattresses

Beds and mattresses send more than 714,000 people to the emergency department each year. The biggest causes of bedroom injuries? Strains and falls.

While many new mattresses no longer require flipping to keep them in good condition, you may find you still need to rotate your mattress twice a year. A queen-sized coil mattress, for example, is 60 by 80 inches (152 by 203 centimeters) and weighs about 100 pounds (45.4 kilograms) -- and if you've traded that for a memory foam mattress you'll be moving between 60 and 150 pounds (27.2 and 68 kilograms) depending on its size [source: Amerisleep]. Remember to lift and lower with your legs, keep your feet shoulder-width apart, work slowly and ask a buddy to help -- handling something as large and awkward as a mattress is not a one-man job.


Falling off of or out of bed may also cause injuries severe enough to require ER treatment, from bumps and fractures to more serious problems such as head injury. Increase your bedroom safety by keeping clutter off the floor, improving your lighting, trading your satin sheets for cotton and adjusting the height of your bed so it's easy to get in and out of.

6: Fireworks

Sparklers are a common part of family holiday celebrations, but it's important to remember that you're basically carrying around fire on a stick.
©Creatas Images/Thinkstock

Did you know that the tip of a sparkler -- one of the most popular types of fireworks -- can reach temperatures of up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit (1093.3 Celsius) and contains an alkaline ingredient that can corrode your eye tissues [source: Walker]?

Burns account for more than 216,000 visits to American emergency rooms every year [source: Ahrens]. Improper handling of fireworks, which spikes between late June and late July, can cause permanent damage, including such injuries as blindness, burns, scarring and the loss of a hand or finger. Most often, fireworks-related injuries affect the hands and fingers, eyes and legs. Except for injuries to the head, which tend to be contusions, cuts and foreign objects or debris in the eyes, most of these injuries are burns.


5: Horses

You may not realize that when you're sitting on a horse you sit at least 8 feet (2.4 meters) off the ground. A fall from that height could send you to the emergency room with fractures and contusions, if you're lucky. If you're unlucky, you could be facing permanent brain damage.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) may cause mild to severe symptoms depending on how much damage the has brain suffered, including loss of consciousness, headaches, blurred vision and confusion, as well as changes in behavior, mood, memory, sleep patterns and thinking -- among other serious problems such as skull fractures, subdural hematomas and brain hemorrhages.


Injuries from equestrian accidents caused more TBIs between 2001 and 2005 in the U.S. than any other sport [source: AANS]. Head injuries account for 18 percent of all riding injuries, and cause nearly 60 percent of riding-related deaths [sources: AANS, EMSA].

For the most protection while horseback riding, wear a helmet (with harness) designed for equestrians and approved by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)/Safety Equipment Institute (SEI).

4: The Floor

Every year in the U.S., nearly 2.7 million people are injured by the floor. Floors, stairs, ramps and landings, to be accurate. Add to that the number of injuries from carpets and rugs, as well as those from ladders and stools, and you're up to as many as 3 million injuries that bring people to the emergency department every year [source: NEISS].

Falls can cause serious injuries and can be fatal, especially for the elderly. One out of three people age 65 and older fall every year, and it's estimated that every 18 seconds an elderly adult is seen for fall-related injuries by emergency medical professionals [sources: HCUP, NCHH].


The most common fall-related injuries seen in emergency departments are fractures, contusions, open wounds and head trauma.

Falls are often preventable -- remove or secure trip hazards such as rugs, store commonly used items within reach to avoid climbing ladders and stools, and improve the lighting in and around your home.

3: Snowboards

Sports-related head injuries caused nearly 450,000 Americans to visit the emergency department in 2009, according to a study by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) [source: AANS]. Not counting cycling, which we talked about earlier, a little more than one-quarter of all outdoor sports-related injuries are caused by snowboards and snowboarding.

Many outdoor sports-related injuries involve fractures and sprains, but 15 percent of related severe head injuries are due to snowboarding and skiing accidents [source: Berwyn].


Before undertaking any new sport (or if it's been awhile since you've participated), be sure you brush up on the basics first. Always be aware of your surroundings and always wear safety equipment, including a proper-fitting helmet designed for that sport.

2: Motor Vehicles

It's no surprise that vehicular injuries are some of the most common seen in U.S. emergency rooms.

America has a deeply-rooted car culture. Unfortunately, car culture comes with car accidents. There were roughly 10.5 million motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) reported in the U.S. in 2006, causing about 3,500,000 visits to the emergency room -- that's equals about 3 percent of all annual visits to the ER [sources: [U.S. Census Bureau, HCUP].

An estimated eight out of 10 patients who visit the emergency room because of MVAs are treated and released. Nearly half of these patients suffer sprains, followed by contusions and superficial injuries -- more severe injuries such as internal injuries to the abdomen or pelvis represent less than 3 percent of MVA victims in the ER [source: HCUP].


1: Medications and Drugs

Drugs, whether prescribed, over-the-counter (OTC) or illegal, account for more than 4.5 million visits to emergency departments in just a one year span. Unintentional poisoning -- when you accidentally ingest too much of something -- sends nearly 2,000 people to the ED and kills about 80 Americans every day [source: CDC].

About half of all drug-related ED visits are because of drug abuse, including overdoses of illegal drugs and alcohol as well as prescription, OTC and dietary supplements. The toxicity of a drug overdose varies by drug, but may cause symptoms such as confusion, agitation or excitement, delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, lethargy, aggression, convulsions, and cardiovascular and neurological impairments.

The other half? These patients have bad reactions, including hives, rashes, swelling, fevers and anaphylaxis, to medications they were taking as prescribed and instructed.

Lots More Information

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More Great Links

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