Christmas holiday safety tips: Health risks to avoid this holiday season

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | General Health | Friday, December 25, 2015 - 08:00 AM

Teenage Boy Hanging Christmas Lights

The holiday season is supposed to be full of joy, but sadly for thousands of people it ends up being full of health hazards, so below we outline the risks and some holiday safety tips to help keep you safe.

Close to 13,000 Americans end up in the emergency ward during the Christmas holidays. How is this possible? Both physical and psychological stress can be factors. A healthy holiday season depends on how you treat yourself.

Endless parties, shopping until you drop, eating countless new foods, and even decorating can put your health at risk.

Some studies show that heart-related deaths peak in late December and early January. This is due to holiday stress, heavy meals, as well as ignoring symptoms for fear it will disrupt festivities. In some cases, the distraction of Christmas can cause people with heart problems to forget to take their medications and that can prove fatal.

Health risks to look out for this holiday season

Health risksThree of the biggest health risks to look out for during the holiday season are overeating, depression, and accidents at home.

A lot of people put on weight during the holidays, but it can be hazardous, especially if weight is already an issue for you or if you suffer from diabetes. People with diabetes have to control their weight and be careful about what they eat, so they can keep their blood glucose levels under control.

Stress, fatigue, loneliness, and family issues during the holidays can cause depression. Sometimes at this time of year people also suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a depression that is associated with changes in the weather. According to the National Institute of Health, Christmas is a time when there is a high rate of depression.

There are also a lot of accidents at Christmas. It’s not hard to see why the risks are higher when so many people are climbing ladders and roofs, as well as reaching and bending while decorating for the holiday. Research shows that about 5,000 Americans are injured in decorating-related falls every holiday season.

Because the hustle and bustle of the holidays can lead to a lack of sleep and stress on our bodies, we are at a higher risk of getting ill. Colds and sniffles are common, the full-blown flu virus can run through entire families, and people report having more cold sores and asthma attacks at this time of year.

There is a lot to think about during the holiday season: decorations, parties, gifts, and food. Keeping everything organized in the kitchen is stressful enough, never mind all the other chores that come with the festive season. While excessive eating and drinking are a concern, we can’t forget about food poisoning. Every year, 48 million Americans develop food poisoning and some of them experience this horrible illness due to contamination at festive buffets. It’s important to keep in mind that bacteria thrive in temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F.

The majority of Christmas revelers like to have a few alcoholic beverage or, in some cases, a few too many. This can lead to the dreaded hangover. Pace yourself and if you do drink, don’t drive.

It is also interesting to note that plants, such as holly and mistletoe, can be toxic, so if you have small children or pets around during the Christmas holidays, you might want to skip those plants or at the very least put them somewhere out of reach.

Having a Christmas tree is an important part of the holiday tradition for millions of North Americans, and treated the right way they can provide a great deal of enjoyment, but according to the National Fire Protection Association, just over 200 house fires occur each year in the United States due to Christmas trees igniting.

Tips for a safe and happy Christmas holiday season

Christmas can be a joyful and relaxing time when we play it safe. Here are some easy to follow holiday safety tips to make sure your season stays “Merry”:

Decorating safetyDecorating safety

  • Never use lighted candles near trees or boughs.
  • Keep your tree stand filled with water so the tree does not dry out.
  • Do not stand your tree near fireplaces, radiators, or other heat sources.
  • Don’t place small ornaments down low on the tree where small children and pets can get them.
  • If you are choosing an artificial tree over a natural tree, make sure it is fire resistant.
  • Unplug tree lights and extension cords when you are not home.
  • When decorating, stand on a proper step stool or ladder, not desks, chairs, or other furniture.
  • Always keep three points of contact on the ladder, whether it is two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.
  • Use dry, slip resistant footwear when climbing a ladder.

Food safety

  • Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw in the refrigerator or in cold water.
  • Use a clean food thermometer to be sure foods cook to a safe internal temperature.
  • When refrigerating leftovers, date the containers for future use.

Personal safetyPersonal safety

  • Try to manage your stress by giving yourself extra time to shop and socialize. As well, get plenty of sleep.
  • Choose not to drink and drive and encourage others do the same.
  • Make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date so you can avoid the holiday flu.
  • Limit food portions and foods high in fat and sugar.
  • Stay active – many people take a break from exercise at this time of year, but it’s not wise.

When the holidays come around it can be hard to stick to a regular healthy routine, but even if you are not able to do as much as you normally would, something is better than nothing. For instance, if you find that you just don’t have as much time to get to the gym because you are too busy shopping, baking and decorating, then when you are visiting family and friends to spread Christmas cheer, ask the person you are visiting with to take a walk with you. You can also consider going to the gym for a shorter workout so you can still fit in the holiday tasks.

A lot of people travel at this time of year and the same tips can apply. For example, overeating is one of the biggest complaints people have when they go on a vacation at any time of year. Be sure to pack your sneakers and a couple of workout outfits if you plan to go away this holiday season.

We have a tendency to treat others well at this time of year; we just have to remember to treat ourselves well too – for safety’s sake. With thoughtful consideration, the holiday season can be a healthy, fun time.


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Sources:
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/holiday-health-hazards-avoid/story?id=27178282#
http://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/12-health-hazards-christmas-horrible-4829482
http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2013/12/18/the-12-dangers-of-christmas-and-how-to-cope-with-them/
http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/20-holiday-health-hazards.html
http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20306979,00.html
http://www.cdc.gov/features/healthytips/
http://www.nsc.org/NSCDocuments/Holiday-Safety-Tips.pdf
http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20323867,00.html
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201011/why-people-get-depressed-christmas
http://www.nfpa.org/research/reports-and-statistics/fire-causes/holiday/christmas-tree-and-holiday-lights


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