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DIY gone wrong: Common injuries and how to prevent them

We’ve spent a lot of time at home over the last year-plus. But COVID-19 hasn’t just given us the opportunity to soak up Bridgerton or re-watch Friends (again). It’s also sparked a home-improvement boom.

In a recent survey, 76 percent of respondents said they’d made at least one improvement to their home during 2020. (Yes, a patio totally counts.) And since we’re following social distancing guidelines and minimizing contact with others to reduce the spread of coronavirus, homeowners have been eager to do the bulk of the work themselves.

While DIY projects can be gratifying, and sometimes save time and money, they also come with risks. There’s not only a chance of completing your project incorrectly—measure twice, cut once really is a thing—you could also harm yourself in the process. Millions of preventable injuries occur in the home each year, and many can be attributed to home improvement projects gone awry.

Whether you’re looking to create a backyard oasis, make a home for your egg-laying feathered friends or spice up your interior with a decidedly anti-pandemic shade of blue, make sure you know how to avoid DIY slip-ups.

Common DIY injuries

At Indigo Urgent Care, we often see the results of home-project mishaps. Here are our most seen DIY-related injuries:

  • Falls and minor fractures: Tread lightly when using ladders and stepstools. Even something as simple as painting or changing a light bulb can result in a fall --  along with a strain,  sprain or minor fracture that requires an evaluation and X-ray.
  • Lacerations: With so much in your home toolbox, it’s no wonder we get so many calls and questions about cuts and stitches. Knives, nails and garden clippers are often the culprits. If you do sustain a laceration, apply direct pressure to the wound using a clean cloth or towel and head to urgent care to get stitched up.
  • Back pain: Home projects often require a lot of bending, twisting and lifting. That can wreak havoc on your back.

  • Toxic chemical exposure: Whether you’re refinishing furniture or tearing out ancient insulation or siding, toxic chemicals are a real hazard for the do-it-yourselfer. And you may not even realize you’re being exposed.  
  • Burns: Live wires and large machinery are burn hazards.
  • Insect bites: Outdoor projects mean outdoor pests. Besides what’s buzzing around your head, there could be hidden hazards. Bugs often nest under eaves, decks or near piles of cardboard. If you do get stung, monitor the bite for signs you need to be seen.

Safety tips

Avoid DIY-related injuries and a trip to the urgent care. Some simple steps will help keep you safe and injury-free.

  • Always wear eye, ear, head, hand and foot protection.
  • Check all equipment before use and follow all instructions carefully.
  • Place ladders properly for stability. For every four feet in height, the base of the ladder should be moved one foot out from the wall or structure. 
  • When working with electricity, turn off the power from the source. If you don’t have the training or experience working with electricity, call a professional.
  • Block off work area and clear all clutter before beginning a project.
  • Always keep children and pets out of work area.
  • Ensure proper ventilation and wear a respirator when working with toxic materials.
  • Lay down non-slip mats and remove any tripping hazards.
  • Store all toxic chemicals safely, even when not in use.
  • Do not stand directly underneath objects that could fall from a height.
  • Always work with a buddy who can spot or warn you of dangers.
  • To avoid cuts, make sure tools are properly sharpened, ensue protective blade shields are in place and cut away from your body.

  • When lifting heavy objects, maintain a wide support base and lift with your knees --  not your back.
  • Refrain from wearing loose clothing, jewelry or hairstyles that could become caught in equipment.
  • Check potential nesting areas for stinging and biting insects.
  • Keep a hose, sink or bucket of ice water nearby to minimize the damage if you get burned.
  • Allow plenty of time for breaks.

Is DIY a good idea?

Even relatively small projects like painting a bedroom or reorganizing kitchen cabinets come with injury risk. While DIY may be tempting and seem easy, hiring a professional is a great choice, especially if the project is complex or beyond your personal level of expertise. Know your own limitations—and hire an experienced pro when you've reached them.  

Indigo is here when injuries happen

Even when you take every precaution, minor DIY-related injuries may happen. Fortunately, your nearby Indigo Health is here for you every day, 8 am to 8 pm, and we provide  online care 24/7.

We offer refreshingly fast, friendly and convenient care when minor injuries and illnesses happen. Across the U.S., walk-in clinics like Indigo see an estimated 3 million patients each week, many of whom have been injured during home improvement projects.

A better way to get better.

Health care that’s friendly, easy, and centered around you.

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