The Christmas holiday season can be a hectic time, but we can’t lose sight of the possibility of running many health risks, so consider some simple safety tips that could help prevent your merry celebration from turning miserable.
Statistics show that 13,000 Americans have to visit the emergency department during the Christmas holidays. It is unfortunate but true that holidays come with health risks. There are both physical and psychological factors that can lead to health problems. Although we can feel overwhelmed by the demands of the Christmas – the shopping, the decorating, the baking, and the countless social events – we have to slow down, take a deep breath, and consider our safety.
Some people who already have health problems get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and forget to take medications. There are also those who experience and ignore signs and symptoms of a disease because they feel as if the issue is low on their priority list, compared to everything else they have to deal with. This can be dangerous, especially for those who might be experiencing signs of a heart attack.
Let’s look at some of the health risks associated with the holidays and some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe.
Holiday season health risks
We can have an accident at any time to the year, but there seem to be a lot of mishaps during the holiday season. As you might have guessed, a lot of these accidents have to do with people falling off ladders and roofs. Thousands of people in the United States are injured each year in accidents related to decorating their homes.
Overeating is also a big health problem during the holidays. I’m sure you have heard about people putting on more weight at Christmas. While it may go (almost) unnoticeable for a healthy person, weight gain can be very hard on those who already have weight issues or suffer from diabetes.
Depression is another health risk that can’t be forgotten. Some people may not have a large social circle at this time of year or, perhaps, they have lost a loved one recently, thus making it difficult to enjoy the festivities. These people feel disconnected and lonely. Social withdrawal and loneliness only make depression during holidays worse.
It’s important to note that since we are running around preparing for the holidays, still working, and trying to meet the demands of everyday life, it can lead to lack of sleep and lots of stress. This puts us in a perfect position to get ill. Colds and flu are very common during the holiday season.
There is plenty to consider aside from the shopping, decorating, baking, and parties. For example, in our rush to “get things done” we can’t forget about issues such as food poisoning and excessive drinking. Close to 50 million Americans develop food poisoning each year and in Canada the number is about 15 million.
Related: Staying healthy this Christmas holiday season, lifestyle and diet choices
Safety tips for the holiday season
The evergreen tree has been used for thousands of years to help celebrate the Christmas holiday. According to the American Christmas Tree Association, about 100 million Americans will put up a tree this Christmas. The trees are a focal point for many families celebrating the holiday and can be very beautiful, but that beauty can turn ugly if the tree ignites. Every year, at least 200 house fires occur as a result of Christmas trees going up in flames. The easy to follow tips below can help keep you safe:
- Keep your tree stand filled with water so it doesn’t dry out.
- Never use lighted candles near your tree.
- Do not place your tree near any heat source, such as a fireplace or space heater.
- Avoid overloading extension cords and electrical sockets with tree light strands.
- If you choose an artificial tree, make sure it is fire resistant.
Holly and mistletoe are popular plants for decorating the home at Christmas time. Holly can be added to garland on a mantle, railing, or dining room centerpiece. Mistletoe, well, we all know what that is used for. As pretty as these plants can be, you need to know that they can be toxic, so it is important to keep them out of the reach of children and any pets that might be around during the holiday.
Here are some other general decorating tips:
- Don’t place ornaments down low on the tree where small children and pets can reach them.
- Stand on a proper stool or ladder when decorating.
- Always keep three points of contact on the ladder – two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.
- Use dry, slip-resistant footwear when climbing a ladder.
- Consider having a spotter (someone to watch over you) when using a ladder.
There is a whole lot of action in the kitchen during the holiday season and especially on Christmas day. It can get pretty chaotic, but it is important for everyone’s health to remember what you have learned about food safety.
Below we share some of the tips that can help ensure a healthy meal.
- Avoid food cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards for raw food and ready-to-eat food.
- Don’t pack food too tightly in the fridge, as cold air needs to circulate to keep food cool.
- Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly.
- Never defrost at room temperature. Thaw in the fridge or in cold water.
- Use proper defrosting guidelines for turkey. In fridge, allow 10-12 hours per kg.
- Use a clean food thermometer to make sure foods cook to a safe temperature.
- Don’t just wash fruits and vegetables, scrub them.
- Pay close attention to “best before” dates.
- When refrigerating leftovers, don’t forget to date the containers.
During the holidays, we tend to take care of everybody else and put ourselves last. The excuse, “I just don’t have time to think about me” is rather common. This approach can catch up with people though. Both stress and recklessness can impact personal safety.
The following tips should help you manage your wellbeing.
- Try to manage your stress by taking time for yourself, exercising, eating right, and getting plenty of sleep.
- Don’t drink in excess and drive.
- Make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date to avoid the flu.
- Don’t overeat or overindulge in high fat foods and sugary treats.
Holidays can be overwhelming, so taking care of ourselves can be easier said than done. One of the biggest problems people have is maintaining their regular routines, and that includes exercise and eating right. This is understandable with all the extra demands, but there are ways around it. For example, if you don’t have time to get to the gym then once you have finished shopping, consider putting your bags in the car and doing a few extra laps around the inside of the mall. If family and friends are over for some Christmas cheer, why not ask them to go for a walk with you. You can even consider still going to the gym, but making your workout shorter, so you can still fit in all your errands.
The Christmas holidays are a great time to enjoy being with family and friends and to reflect on what’s important, including the gift of health. Considering some of the simple tips outlined above can help ensure that happy holiday we all imagine.