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14 Seemingly Harmless Things That Could Actually Kill You

You'll never think of dryer lint the same way again. Inspired by this Reddit thread.

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1. Letting someone blow air into your vagina.

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Or if, for some reason, you take a syringe full of air and pump it into your vagina. If you get enough air, blown at sufficient force, it can result in a fatal air embolism — when air bubbles get into your bloodstream and kill you.

Stay safe: Don't let anyone blow in your vagina.

2. Dryer lint.

Alan Levine / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: cogdog

When lint builds up in your dryer, it could cause your dryer to overheat and potentially catch fire. According to a 1998 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were roughly 15,600 dryer fires that year, causing 20 deaths and 370 injuries.

Stay safe: Clean out your dryer lint in between each use. More useful tips here.

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3. Cleaning the bathroom.

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Mixing bleach with other common household cleaners can create toxic gases that could potentially kill you. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: NEVER mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleaner. Here are 16 Common Product Combinations You Should Never Mix, for a few other examples.

Stay safe: If you're going to use bleach, read the instructions incredibly carefully. And never, ever mix it with other household cleaners.

4. Tylenol.

Mike Mozart / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: jeepersmedia

Or, rather, way too much acetaminophen (a pain reliever that Tylenol is made of, and that's found in many other medications). Acetaminophen overdose causes about 500 deaths in the United States each year. When taken as directed, acetaminophen can be very helpful. But it's easy to take more than you should, because it's in so many medications that you might feel compelled to take simultaneously (like Tylenol and Nyquil, for instance). There are about 60,000 cases of acetaminophen-related liver damage every year, most of them accidental.

Stay safe: Always read the label before you take any medication. If you're taking a medication that has acetaminophen as one of the ingredients, don't take any other medication that also contains acetaminophen. Talk to your doctor about what's safe.

5. Drinking too much water, too fast.

Two tragic examples: In 2005, a man died after a fraternity hazing ritual where he had to chug water from a jug over and over again. In 2007, a California woman died after participating in a water-drinking contest hosted by a local radio station. The cause of death in both cases was water intoxication, which is when someone drinks so much water in a short amount of time that the kidneys can't process it quickly enough, causing deadly swelling of the brain and lungs. It has also happened to athletes during extreme sporting events; as well as to people taking club drugs, who feel insatiable thirst and end up drinking too much water too quickly.

Stay safe: Don't ever force yourself to drink when you aren't thirsty. And don't do MDMA, Molly, or ecstasy. More information in this article in Scientific American.

6. Pools, lakes, bathtubs — any body of water, really.

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According to the CDC, drowning is the third biggest cause of death from "unintentional injury" in the world. In the United States, it's THE leading cause of death from unintentional injury for children under 4 years old — overtaking car accidents in 2005. Of all drowning deaths, 9.7% occurred in bathtubs; 16.3% in swimming pools; 47.2% in natural water, and 26.8% unspecified.

Stay safe: Always keep a close eye on your kids when they're in or around water, even if there's a lifeguard on duty. Don't leave young children unattended in a bathtub for any amount of time. And read the CDC's fact sheet on unintentional drowning to learn more tips to help you and your loved ones stay safe in the water.

7. Pressure washers.

Kenny Holston / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: kennyholston

A pressure washer is a very strong cleaning tool that sprays water at SUPER high pressure. It can cause serious wounds if you accidentally point it at yourself or others. The wound might not appear bad, but it could potentially become infected. Per a CDC fact sheet: "Wounds that appear minor can cause a person to delay treatment, increasing risk for infection, disability or amputation." Other pressure washer risks, according to the CDC, include carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock, and also the possibility that the washer might hit small objects that can turn into dangerous projectiles.

Stay safe: Never point it at yourself, and never try to use it to move things around, for starters. More tips here, from the CDC.

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8. Vending machines.

vistavision / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: vistavision

In 1995, a number of soda vending machine manufacturers agreed to label their machines with a warning that they could cause death or serious injury if rocked or tilted. It's pretty rare, but not unheard of: Between 1978 and 1995, there were at least 37 known cases of people dying, and 113 injuries, due to vending machines falling over onto them.

Stay safe: Don't rock or tilt or jiggle the vending machine.

9. Minor cuts and scratches.

Tina :O) / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: jettajet

Most cuts and scratches end up healing on their own and everything's fine. But if you don't wash and dress your wounds, you risk them becoming infected. And infected wounds can lead to major problems — like sepsis. Sepsis can kill you in a matter of days.

Stay safe: Learn how to treat your cuts and wounds the right way.

10. The flu.

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Between 1976 and 2006, the flu killed thousands of Americans every year. The death rates ranged from a low of 3,000 deaths in a flu season, to a high of 49,000 deaths during a season. Each year, roughly 200,000 Americans end up hospitalized because of the flu, according to the CDC. The flu is especially dangerous for the young (under 5), the old (over 65), pregnant women, and people with underlying health conditions (like asthma, heart disease, and diabetes), but those are not the only people who can become very sick or die from it.

Stay safe: Get the flu shot if you can, every year (typically in October or so, just before flu season). It isn't a guarantee (this year it was only partially effective), but it's definitely better than NOT getting vaccinated. Not only does it help lower your chances of catching the flu, but the more people who are vaccinated, the better it is for people who are especially vulnerable to flu complications. Learn more about this by reading 14 Things You Should Know For Flu Season.

11. Not getting enough sleep.

Sebastian Niedlich / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: 42311564@N00

Insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic, according to the CDC. In fact, the National Department of Transportation estimates that drowsy driving is responsible for roughly 1,550 car accident deaths and 40,000 car accident injuries each year.

Stay safe: Sleep for seven to nine hours a night. Tips here for how to get the sleep you need.

12. Shoveling snow.

Bart Heird / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: chicagobart

Every year, a handful of people die, usually from heart attacks, while shoveling snow after a blizzard. And a study that looked at emergency room visits from 1990 to 2006 found that snow-shoveling accidents accounted for roughly 11,500 ER visits per year (and accounted for 1,647 deaths during the 16-year time period).

Stay safe: Don't push yourself — pay attention to what your body is telling you; work with a friend or family member to split the job into more manageable parts; and take plenty of breaks to lower your heart rate and drink water and get some rest.

13. Eating food.

Chris H / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: mrtopher

Remember how President George W. Bush choked on a pretzel? It's more common than you'd expect. Choking is the eighth most common cause of accidental injury death in the United States, according to the National Safety Council. It's especially common in young kids and in the elderly, although it can and does happen to people of all ages. Hot dogs are especially dangerous.

Stay safe: Cut up your food into smaller pieces. If you're serving hot dogs to kids, cut them longwise and in tiny bits. Chew your food carefully. Don't talk with your mouth full. Read what the Red Cross has to say about how to respond if someone is choking. And learn how to help yourself if you're choking and alone, as well.

14. Cheating on your wife.

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And not because she'll kill you (har har), but because you might have a heart attack while having sex with your mistress. According to a statement from the American Heart Association, an autopsy review of 5,559 cases of sudden death found that 75% of the people who died DURING intercourse were having extramarital sex. It was often with a younger partner, and often after having consumed a lot of food and alcohol earlier in the night. To be fair, the people in the study whose heart attacks happened during sex was incredibly low in general (about 0.6% of all sudden deaths). But... the point stands.

Stay safe: Don't cheat.

This post has been updated with information about how to help someone who is choking, as advised by the Red Cross.

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