December Injury Prevention
Safety first in your holiday planning
Once again, it’s time to celebrate all of the December holidays with family, friends and parties. We often hear, “This year we’re really going to scale back,” or, “We really need to do less stressful things this holiday and celebrate the holiday simply.” Somehow many of us repeat the old patterns and end up stressed, overextended financially and emotionally, and wondering how the situations could be different.
The following tips may be helpful in your planning.
- Do plan: don’t just wait for things to happen around you. Use the time you have wisely.
- Decide what is most important to you. Is it a holiday meal with family or going to a special performance of a holiday nature? Is it repeating a ritual that your family has done for many years? Whatever it is, be sure to make it a special moment for yourself and those you care about.
- Make your decisions now about what parties you’ll attend. If you can’t or don’t want to attend every opportunity, choose the one you’ll enjoy most. Having lunch with a friend instead of going to a party can be a great way to celebrate, and it is far less stressful.
- Are you purchasing gifts for others? Set your budget and stick to it. Huge credit card bills in January and February can be very shocking, and will dampen your post-holiday glow.
It is also extremely important to consider the safety prospective when you decorate, as well as gifts you purchase.
- Trees and decorations: If you’re using a fresh tree, avoid getting it too early. Trees dry out quickly and can become a fire hazard in warm homes. Be sure the tree you pick has a bright green color. When the tree trunk is tapped on the ground, few needles should fall off. Branches should be supple and not break when bent gently. To promote continued freshness, cut a few inches off the tree trunk using an appropriate tool. A sticky resin should appear on the cut trunk. Always keep fresh water in the live tree stand.
- Artificial trees should be fire resistant and labeled accordingly. Never put electrical lights on a metallic tree since they can build up a charge and cause an electrocution when touched!
- Flames of any kind do not belong on evergreens or table decorations that are flammable. Keep a vigilant eye on burning candles; snuff them before leaving the home or going to bed. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission there are 15,000 candle-related fires each year, resulting in 140 deaths and $307 million in property loss! A great alternative is the flameless candle.
- Holiday decorations are a novelty to children and pets, especially because they are naturally curious. Many holiday plants, such as berries of holly and mistletoe, as well as poinsettias, are toxic to both children and pets. If these are part of your decor, keep them high and out of reach. Call the Poison Control Center if plant material is swallowed (1-800-222-1222.)
- Before stringing lights, check the cords for fraying. Use only lights rated by Underwriters Laboratory or other safety lab for the specific intended use, and never string more than three strings together. Lights should be plugged into a receptacle that is a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Extension cords, if needed, should be appropriately rated for your decorating plans.
- Likewise, home and tree decorations should be sturdy and non-breakable. If you use breakable ornaments, place them high on the tree out of small hands and reach of pets.
No holiday gathering would be complete without our favorite foods. When you’re preparing your favorites, remember the basic principles that apply all year long.
- When preparing food, always use good handwashing and dishwashing techniques.
- Keep foods from coming in contact with raw poultry, beef or seafood during preparation.
- Dress for working in the kitchen. Clothes should fit: avoid wearing flowing caftans or baggy clothes to maintain safe kitchen practices. Also, long hair needs to be pinned up and excessive hair spray or hair product should be avoided.
- Plan on serving dishes that can be prepared ahead of time and allow you to enjoy the gathering, as well.
Following a few simple safety tips will help make the holidays positively memorable for you and your family. Wishing each of you a very happy and safe holiday season from the Trauma Staff and Injury Prevention!