Jordan Tyczka, MSN, RN, CEN, TCRN, is the Trauma Services Educator at the Inova Virts Miller Family Emergency and Trauma Center — Inova Loudoun Hospital’s Level III designated trauma center.
The month of May is dedicated to trauma awareness. This year’s theme is “Safe and Secure: Safety Is a Choice, Prevention Is Key.” This past year, people around the world have banned together and focused on aggressive preventive measures – wearing masks, social distancing and quarantining – to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It may surprise you, but trauma is also a disease that can be controlled with adherence to preventative measures. Prevention is the crucial factor in reducing injury from trauma.
More than 40 years ago, trauma was identified as the “neglected disease,” yet it still remains the leading cause of death for the first four decades of life. An influential report in the 1960s from the National Academy of Sciences labeled traumatic injury as a national epidemic. This report initiated regional Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and 911 programs to help respond to traumatic injuries. Additionally, “injury prevention” was born. Seatbelts were installed in new cars in 1968, followed by air bags in 1969 – all to reduce injury from traumatic events.
It is important to note that there is no such thing as an accident when it comes to trauma. Traumatic injuries don’t “just happen.” Instead, they are typically caused by a lack of knowledge or training, carelessness, or an unknown risk. It means injuries can be prevented, treated and controlled with increased awareness. Prevention is our “vaccine” for the disease of traumatic injury. Remember: most, if not all, of the accidents and injuries we treat at the trauma center are preventable. It is all our responsibility to be vigilant in our prevention efforts.
Traumas can happen at home, at work, during travel or in the great outdoors. Falls are the most common and costly of all traumatic injuries at home. Every person over the age of 65 should ask their primary care doctors for a fall risk assessment to determine their risk for falls. Fall risk assessments are also offered at Inova’s outpatient rehabilitation centers.
Other unintentional injuries at home include:
- Cuts in the kitchen – Here’s a quick tip: keep cutting knives sharp. While that seems counterintuitive, it is easy for a dull knife to slip off the intended cutting surface and cut the user instead.
- Unintentional poisonings – These occur mostly with children, so be sure you keep childproof locks on your cabinets where these substances are stored.
- Burns – A lot of accidental burns occur in the bathtub or sink from water that is set too hot. Be sure your water heater is set below 120 degrees.
- Drowning – These make up 30 percent of unintentional deaths among children 1 to 4 years of age, and mostly to those with home swimming pools at the home. It is recommended to have a gate surrounding the pool, and to be extra cautious, install an alarm that alerts you any time the gate is opened. Many families whose children have drowned report they had gates around their pools, but children knew how to open them and were able to gain access without their parents’ knowledge.
The summer months bring sunshine and beautiful weather, but the number of traumatic injuries also increases with the temperatures. Be mindful of all the summer activities that can pose risk for traumatic injuries such as grilling, trampolining, swimming, driving any motorized vehicle and even cutting the grass. Assess for the risk of injury and take steps to prevent it. Remember, being aware of possible trauma is how you can start to prevent it from happening to you or your family.