The holidays are a time to celebrate, give thanks, and reflect. They are also a time to pay special attention to your health. Give the gift of health and safety to yourself and others by following these holiday tips.
Wash your hands often.
Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow,not your hands.
Injuries can occur anywhere and some often occur around the holidays. In November and December 2010 (the latest data available), more than 13,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms due to injuries related to holiday decorating, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Sety Commission.
Take Precautions Against Falls
Dr. Shawn Evans, an emergency medicine physician at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla in Southern California, says falls are “hands down the most common reason why we’ll see folks this time of year.” Nearly 6,000 victims of decorating-related falls head to emergency rooms each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Most of these accidents occur while hanging lights outside or placing ornaments atop Christmas trees. Most common are cuts, bruises, and broken bones, though tumbling from a roof onto, say, concrete, fences, or trees can be fatal. To protect yourself, always use a sturdy ladder”even indoors, since climbing on chairs, desks, and other furniture can be risky. Before stepping onto a ladder, make sure it’s positioned on flat ground and that its rungs are dry. And only use it outdoors during daylight hours.
Take Caution When Picking Out Presents
Inappropriate presents — or those that aren’t well-thought out — can also put people at risk. Some of the most hazardous gifts have wheels, Evans says. From kids who can’t wait to test out their new bikes to adults who can’t wait to test out their new motorcycles, head and spinal injuries are often seen in the ER around the holidays. “The message for folks is that if it rolls or requires a helmet, make sure you gift the helmet,” Evans says. “Don’t rely on the person … to buy their helmet later on. They will get hurt on Christmas Day.” Doctors also see gun and knife-related injuries post-Christmas. Recipients eager to show off their new gifts are often reckless with the safety of themselves and those around them, Evans says.
Moderate Your Alcohol Intake
Evans says the second most common injuries his staff sees during the holiday season are caused by “alcohol-and…” alcohol and accidents; alcohol and a motor vehicle; alcohol and an altercation; alcohol and cooking knives. “There’s ample time for people to get out and party, and make less-than-fortunate decisions.”
Most residential fires occur during the winter months. Keep candles away from children, pets, walkways, trees, and curtains. Never leave fireplaces, stoves, or candles unattended. Don’t use generators, grills, or other gasoline- or charcoal-burning devices inside your home or garage. Install a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in your home. Test them once a month, and replace batteries twice a year. Each year, fires kill approximately 400 Americans and cause more than $990 million in damage, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Christmas trees are often the first item ignited, the National Fire Protection Association says.
If you’re buying a live tree this year, make sure to check it for freshness by looking at the color (it should be green, not brown) and needles (they shouldn’t break when bent or fall off branches easily), according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. And always place a tree away from heat sources like an air vent or fireplace. If you choose an artificial tree, look for a “fire resistant” label, the CPSC says. Candles are another fire hazard. The CPSC recommends using flameless candles if you have young children or pets, and placing real candles away from materials that will catch on fire easily. Make sure to extinguish all candles before going to bed at night.
Handle and prepare food safely.
As you prepare holiday meals, and any meals, keep yourself and your family safe from food-related illness. Wash hands and surfaces often. Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs (including their juices) away from ready-to-eat foods and eating surfaces. Cook foods to the proper temperature. Refrigerate promptly. Do not leave perishable foods out for more than two hours
With balance and moderation, you can enjoy the holidays the healthy way. Choose fresh fruit as a festive and sweet substitute for candy. Select just one or two of your favorites from the host of tempting foods. Find fun ways to stay active, such as dancing to your favorite holiday music. Be active for at least 2½ hours a week. Help kids and teens be active for at least 1 hour a day.
Children are at high risk for injuries. Keep a watchful eye on your kids when they’re eating and playing. Keep potentially dangerous toys, food, drinks, household items, choking hazards (like coins and hard candy), and other objects out of kids’ reach. Learn how to provide early treatment for children who are choking. Make sure toys are used properly. Develop and reinforce rules about acceptable and safe behaviors, including electronic media.
Whether you’re traveling across town or around the world, help ensure your trip is safe. Don’t drink and drive, and don’t let someone else drink and drive. Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle. Always buckle your child in the car using a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt according to his/her height, weight, and age.
The holidays don’t need to take a toll on your health and pocketbook. Keep a check on overcommitment and overspending. Balance work, home, and play. Get support from family and friends. Keep a relaxed and positive outlook. Make sure to get proper sleep.
CDC: Family/Holiday Tips
News4Jax: Holiday Health Hazards