November to mid-January can be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also when injuries at the home and on the road spike.
Dr. James Dunne, medical director of Trauma Services at Memorial Health, said, “Over the past five years during this season, the number of people involved in motor vehicle crashes has increased by over 78% and the number of people seriously injured by falls has increased by over 120%.”
Here are some tips to stay injury-free throughout this festive season.
Decorate safely. About 15,000 people end up in the emergency room every year because of injuries sustained while decorating for the holidays (U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission). About 6,000 of these injuries are due to falls, usually when stringing up lights or taking them down. To avoid falls:
• Don’t drink and decorate: Many decorating related injuries involve alcohol. Save the eggnog until after the decorations go up.
• Don’t decorate alone: Someone should be around to assist or call for help in case you fall. If you have friends or family who are older, offer to help them.
• Climb safely: Make sure none of the rungs are broken and that you are following the safety guidelines on your ladder. Always have someone hold the ladder steady for you.
• Keep kids on the ground: Don’t let kids climb ladders to put decorations up.
Prevent fires. Fires kill about 400 people every year over the holidays and cause more than $990 million in damage (U.S. Fire Administration). Christmas trees are often the first thing to catch fire. To prevent fires:
• Keep it fresh. If you are buying a live tree, make sure it is fresh. It should be green, with no brown needles, and branches shouldn’t break easily when you bend them. Keep it away from heat sources.
• Watch the flames. Menorah and other holiday candles are among the top causes of fire-related injuries (National Safety Council). Keep burning candles in sight and away from kids, pets and materials that can catch on fire easily. Consider using flameless candles.
• Buy safe lights. Make sure the lights you are using have been approved by a safety testing laboratory. LED lights are a great energy-efficient choice and they run cooler. Discard any light sets that are damaged.
• Check the fireplace. Check and clean the chimney and fireplace area at least once a year. Use a screen on the fireplace at all times when a fire is burning.
Celebrate responsibly: Most injuries over the holidays are caused by “alcohol and…” Every holiday season, many lives are lost due to drunk or drugged drivers. Stay safe on the roads every day, especially the holidays, by:
• Driving sober. Even if you’ve only had one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or plan to use a ride service to get home safely. Remember, buzzed driving is drunk driving.
• Defensive driving. If you see a drunk driver on the road, keep a safe distance – do not try to pass them. Call the police.
It is never okay to drink and drive.
• Gift appropriately: More than a quarter million children were seriously injured in toy-related incidents in 2017. Make sure you purchase age-appropriate items, avoid choking hazards, and include safety gear with riding toys.
We wish you a safe and enjoyable holiday season.
Sarah Carrigan is the injury prevention coordinator for Memorial Health in Savannah.