Guarding Against Holiday Hazards

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The holiday season is a time for sharing and celebrating, but it’s also one of the most hazardous seasons of the year. While we hate to sound like doom and gloom at what’s supposed to be a happy time, a little bit of forethought and prevention can help you avoid season-spoiling mishaps in and around the house.

Falls on wet or icy outdoor stairs and walkways are one of the most common holiday injuries. We’re often rushing around at this time of year or trying to carry in an armload of purchases. Make sure your entrances are brightly lit and free of debris. Add a slip-resistant tread to each step and don’t forget to salt the steps when there is snow, hail or freezing rain.
Decorate Safely

The Consumer Products Safety Commission reports that between 12,000 and 15,000 people visit a hospital emergency room each year due to accidents that occurred while decorating for the holidays. When hanging holiday lights, avoid electrical accidents by not overcrowding outlets. Prevent falling accidents by making sure that ladders are placed on level surfaces, with a spotter holding the ladder if possible.

Unwrap with Care
If you’ve ever struggled to open plastic clamshell packaging that seems impervious to sharp objects, then you’ll understand why opening gifts is a top holiday hazard. Have sharp scissors on hand and avoid using knives and other kitchen utensils. Unwrapping is half the fun of getting a gift, so encourage family members to take their time and open gifts carefully.

Avoid Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen
Everyone may want to pitch in and help prepare that big holiday feast, but the scene can become chaotic. The National Fire Protection Association reports that unattended cooking is the number one cause of kitchen fires, with the risk peaking on Thanksgiving Day. It’s a good idea to have one person in charge of the stove and oven while food is being prepared. That person should stay in the room at all times or appoint a stand-in. Another fire prevention tip is to keep counter clutter to a minimum, with flammable items such as paper towels and plastic wrap stored away from the stove.

Don’t Overindulge
The holidays are all about indulging ourselves with rich food, alcohol and sweets. The key to a healthy holiday season is avoiding overindulgence. Too many fatty and sugary foods and too much alcohol or caffeine can lead to a medical emergency, especially for those with diabetes or heart conditions. Increased indulgence in alcohol is also the cause of a rise in fatal auto accidents during the holidays. Stay sober during holiday celebrations that require driving or be sure to appoint a designated driver.

Beware of Exploding Turkeys
Besides feeling too full after eating a turkey feast, you could actually be injured by a holiday turkey. Some families have embraced a new tradition of deep frying their turkey. This practice can result in a frying bird that is wet or partially frozen catching on fire or exploding. The open vat of hot oil used for frying also presents the risk of serious burns. Besides accidents from turkey frying, emergency rooms also see an increase in foot and leg injuries caused by dropping a hot turkey when it’s being taken out of the oven. There’s also a holiday spike in visits for finger and hand lacerations attributed to turkey carving, often by someone with little experience or practice. Safety experts recommend exercising caution during all aspects of turkey cooking and carving.
A turkey, roast or ham that you save as a holiday leftover can make you sick if it’s not prepared and stored properly. Disinfect kitchen countertops before and after cooking with meat. Keep warm dishes warm and cold dishes cold if you don’t plan to serve them right away. Turkey and other leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of serving in glass or plastic containers.

The Risks of Indoor Fires
Besides the increased holiday risk of kitchen fires, there is a greater chance of fire in other areas of the home during the holidays. Flickering candlelight is a holiday tradition for many, but it’s also the cause of many fires, along with fireplaces, discarded holiday wrapping paper and dehydrated Christmas trees. Make sure your smoke detectors are working and have fresh batteries before the holidays begin so you’re prepared for the worst.

Don’t Forget Prescriptions Refills
Doctors are busy during the holiday season due to seasonal illnesses and usually have shorter holiday hours. If you have a critical prescription, make sure you aren’t at risk of needed a refill when your doctor’s office or pharmacy is closed. If you’re hosting out-of-town relatives who take medication, remind them to bring enough for their entire visit. ■

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