Holiday Health Hazards

By Lindsey Johnson
People roasting hot dogs over a fire

The holidays are a time of joy, friends, family, good food and gifts. A time to celebrate! This season, keep your holidays full of laughter and merriment by avoiding these holiday health hazards.

Toy Safety

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that there were more than 206,400 toy-related injuries seen in emergency departments in 2021, with approximately 75% of these in children under the age of 15. Non-motorized scooters were the toy category associated with the most injuries in children of this age category.

When selecting toy gifts, pay attention to age recommendations. Purchase associated safety equipment if applicable, such as a helmet for a bike. Ensure toys work appropriately and discard all packaging immediately to avoid choking and poking hazards.

Cooking and Frying Hazards

Cooking fires are another holiday health hazard. According to the CPSC, cooking fires are the top cause of residential fires. There are over 360,000 annual home fires, leading to around 2,400 deaths and nearly 11,000 injuries. Of these fires, approximately 46% (around 165,600) are classified as cooking fires, leading to 200 deaths and 3,200 injuries.

It may come as no surprise that Thanksgiving Day sees the most cooking fires (averaging 1,600), which is more than three times the average amount of daily cooking fires throughout the year. Turkey fryers have caused over 200 fire or scalding/ burning incidents since 2000, resulting in 83 injuries and $9.5 million in property loss.

Although you may be distracted with guests, wine or multitasking, stay vigilant about monitoring what’s cooking. Set multiple timers as reminders to check on each dish and keep an eye on anything in production. If frying a turkey, keep the fryer outside, away from the house and garage and monitor closely.

Binge Drinking

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), New Year’s Eve has the highest rate of binge drinking, with an estimated 40% of women and 47% of men.

The American Addiction Centers reported that 16.7% of women and 3% of men say they have lost consciousness due to binge drinking at New Year’s and 42% of automobile accidents on the holiday are caused by intoxicated drivers. In fact, between Christmas and New Year’s, approximately 300 people die annually due to drunk driving accidents.

Make a plan for transportation and set your limit before you begin drinking. Better yet, stay in or plan to spend the night where you are celebrating to stay off the roads.

Holiday Decorations

Decorations may also be a holiday health hazard. The CDC reports that 17,465 people were treated in emergency departments from falls related to holiday decorations. Falling from ladders was the most common culprit (43%) but other falls came from furniture, roofs and stairs.

Other common injuries related to holiday decorations include lacerations from broken ornaments (or decorations) and fires. Real Christmas trees can dry out and become highly flammable if exposed to a flame. Candles are another big culprit for decoration fires as well as faulty holiday lighting or wiring. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that there are approximately 156,000 fires during the holiday season, injuring 2,200 people, killing 630 and causing an estimated $554 million in total property damage.

Take caution when decorating. If you don’t feel steady on a ladder, skip the higher decorations or hire a decoration crew (or friend or family member) to hang the lights and attach the tree topper. Be especially cautious regarding fire safety with decorations. Check each strand of lights for fraying or broken pieces. Be cautious to not overload outlets. Never leave candles unattended and ensure they are not close enough to anything to start a fire.

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