Hidden Holiday Hazards


The holidays are great times for friends and family to get together, but nothing ruins the fun faster than a mishap or injury that lands a loved one in the emergency room. The hazards of choking on food, house fires from unattended candles and faulty strings of decorative lights are well-known, but other less publicized dangers can threaten the joy of the season as well.

After nearly 30 years of treating patients at the emergency department during the holidays, Dr. Steven Hindman offers his insight to help you avoid the common accidents that can put you there.


When preparing for the holidays, take particular care about what you are climbing on to decorate high places or retrieve a special serving bowl from a top shelf. I have seen horrible injuries from people climbing on unsafe things at this time of the year. Tall ladders with handles and step ladders are a safer bet than a kitchen counter, a swivel chair, or a wobbly old ladder you pull out of the garage once a year to reach objects are beyond your grasp.


If the weather has created slippery conditions, avoid unnecessary trips to the store or mailbox and wear appropriate footwear with tread when you go.  Dog walking during bad weather may be a necessity, but keep the outing short and be mindful of anything in the environment that could cause your dog to lunge suddenly.


Though I discourage having a houseful of guests during this pandemic, if you do, your guests may be unaccustomed to having pets, children and toys underfoot. They can easily trip over the dog and break a wrist, or twist an ankle stepping on a toy. Older family members are particularly vulnerable to falls if they try to find their way for a drink of water in unlit, unfamiliar hallways. One wrong step could send senors tumbling down the stairs or crashing into a table or door jamb. Change of routine and medication schedules could further disorient elderly guests, who might experience dizziness and fluctuations in their blood pressure while at your home.


Distractions and alcoholic beverages can also pose physical perils. In the kitchen, divided attention can lead to hand injuries, burns and severe lacerations. We typically see an increase in the number of cut tendons and nerves in the hand from accidents involving knives and slicers.


Driving while intoxicated and distracted driving are common reasons young people end up in the ER.  Staying home on any holiday is a much safer choice.

The holidays are a time to be thankful for friends and family. Taking the proper precautions to make sure everyone stays safe during this time of year can be the greatest gift of all.

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