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With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to become distracted in the shuffle of extra activities and overlook everyday precautions that help keep us safe and healthy. In fact, statistics show that mishaps occur more frequently during the holiday period.
Caregivers unfortunately bear much of this strain, as they not only endure the same holiday stress as their patients but are also responsible for delivering extra care and compassion during an already stressful season.
Aside from cold and flu season, the holidays also bring a flurry of various common accidents—many of which might come as a surprise. Throughout this month, these 12 holiday mishaps are outlined below.
Decorations were one of Clark Griswold’s favorite parts of the holidays in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Unfortunately for the Griswold’s and their neighbors, that overzealous love led to a lot of problems. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission noted that 13,000+ people were treated in the ER for holiday decorating-related injuries. Most commonly treated were: older adults hanging outdoor lights, patients that had consumed alcohol while decorating (injuring their wrists or shoulders), and children attempting to help, but developed concussions or head lacerations. When getting festive with holiday decorations, making safety a priority can keep your holiday traditions from becoming a holiday tragedy. Additional data shows:
According to Federal statistics, an estimated 5,000 lives are lost and more than 418,000 people are injured each year across the nation in bad weather car accidents. Per the National Safety Council, many people choose to travel by car during the holidays, which has the highest fatality rate of any major form of transportation based on fatalities per passenger mile. According to Injury Facts, one third of the following fatalities were related to alcohol impairment in 2017:
Food poisoning is more common than most people realize, reported in 48 million cases a year. Especially susceptible populations include pregnant women, children under the age of 5, adults 65 years and older, and people with weakened immune systems due to illness or medical treatment. Unfortunately, 53% of U.S. adults wrongly believe that food poisoning from food prepared in home is “not very common.” Safefood, an Irish food safety body says cross-contamination from raw meat and poultry is one of the main reasons for food poisoning. They also point out that studies have shown that up to 80% of food poisoning result from unsafe cooking practices in the home. Among healthcare providers, registered nurses and registered dietitians may be better positioned to provide patients with information about food safety than physicians as they can spend more time interacting with patients, making it even more important that they have accurate and thorough information.
A study of 101 home-based outbreaks determined that inappropriate food storage accounted for 50% of causative factors, while cross-contamination accounted for 28% of these mistakes. Food poisoning often goes unreported simply because people don’t realize they have it. Symptoms are often like other illnesses and can occur anywhere between a few hours of consuming food or as long as several weeks after. Food poisoning doesn’t just occur from food that wasn’t properly cooked, it can also be passed by unwashed hands and can live on fresh produce that isn’t properly cleaned. Foodsafety.gov also indicates that each year foodborne illness cause:
Click to learn more about foodborne illness prevention
A perhaps seemingly harmless activity results in hundreds of injuries and hospital visits every holiday season. While working to create the perfect gift appearance, many unintentionally either harm themselves while gift wrapping, or the gift’s recipient as they’re attempting to open the gift. This “harmless fun” has proven to be otherwise, as statistics show:
The holiday season generally brings a tradition of family-favorite dishes and everyone’s favorite homecooked meals. With the rush to accomplish so much in a short amount of time, accidental cooking-related injuries are all too common during the holiday season. From hot to sharp cooking equipment and appliances it’s critical to remember to put safety first.
Indeed, ranges and ovens were involved in 17,300 burn incidents in 2009 in U.S. emergency departments. Americans love fried foods, and that extends to our holiday turkey. However, frying a whole turkey can be dangerous if done improperly—accounting for an average of five deaths, 60 injuries, and the destruction of 900 homes each year. In fact, home fires involving cooking peak on dates that are major U.S. holidays with traditions of cooking, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Christmas Eve. During 2004-2008, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 154,700 home cooking fires each year, resulting in:
Click here to learn more about sepsis, a life-threatening condition caused by wound infection.
Holiday decorations (particularly glass ornaments) are a common safety hazard parents should play close attention to throughout the season. Children and pets alike are frequent victims of choking accidents due to small, seemingly harmless objects. Tinsel can be especially dangerous for pets when ingested as it tends to be easily wrapped around intestines. Garlands can be wrapped around a neck and tangled, causing a choking hazard. A study published in the journal Pediatric Emergency Care, found out of a total of 76 cases from October 1995 to March 2008:
Click here to learn more about resuscitation best practices.
Aside from the mental and emotional stress associated with the holiday season, the physical stress our bodies endure can be a lot to handle. Especially for those who aren’t used to the season’s fast pace and physical demands, the extra stress can be dangerous to those already at higher health risks with heart issues.
Each year, there are nearly 100 deaths and 11,500 trips to the emergency department from snow shoveling injuries. Did you know that men aged 55 and older are twice as likely as women the same age to have snow shoveling related heart symptoms? According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2016 there were 337 reported holiday accidents of which 52 (15%) were lower back injuries due to lifting heavy objects. Some common holiday activities that are physically demanding include:
Did you know December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month? Although more common in children, adults aren’t exempt from dangerous gift-related injuries from motorcycles, guns, and knives. Children’s products represent more than 40% of recalls by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and account for more than 50% of injuries due to recalled products. However, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, of the 251,700 estimated toy-related, emergency department-treated injuries in 2017:
Winter sports can be extra fun and exciting, as they’re not typically available year-round, which is what also leads to their increased risks. Without routine exposure and practice, people are often more reckless in already dangerous settings. From skiing to snowboarding, winter sports include risks from harsh outdoor elements including frostbite, hypothermia, and severe sun burns. Statistics show:
Aside from the annual Black Friday deals and crowds, the full span of the holiday season brings a surplus of shoppers and heightened emotions with “limited editions,” “best sales of the year,” and the “hottest toys.” Since 2006, Black Friday madness has accounted for 12 deaths and 117 injuries including the 2008 trampling death of a Walmart employee and numerous mall shootings. Slips, trips, and falls are the most common types of injuries that we see during holiday shopping, but falling objects can also cause serious injury. Aside from the added traffic, extra monetary stress, and long lines, many agree the most dreaded aspect of holiday shopping is the parking. According to the National Safety Council:
Click here to learn more about creating a safer workplace.
A number of holiday plants are not only breathtaking with beauty but also contain sentimental value in that they represent “the most wonderful time of the year” for many. While seasonal and beautiful, some of the holiday season’s most infamous plants are dangerous when ingested. This is a fairly well-known fact for most adults, but children and pets are often harmed by these poisonous plants every holiday season.
The most common holiday plants to stay cautious of include: Jerusalem cherry, poinsettias, holly and mistletoe, lilies and daffodils, and amaryllis
The holidays bring an abundance of joy, good company, and festivities but also extra stress, food, and drinking. While many use the holidays as an excuse to splurge on big purchases, this is also true with binge eating and alcohol consumption. For those with existing heart issues, this time of year can be especially dangerous.
Holiday heart syndrome is even known to occur in healthy individuals. This syndrome is caused by the occurrence of heart arrhythmia (most frequently atrial fibrillation) after bouts of binge drinking. The first appearance of holiday heart syndrome in the medical literature occurred in 1978. In the research, doctors described the prevalence of cardiac rhythm disorders related to binge drinking that frequently occurred during—you guessed it—the holidays. Last year, another study found that heart attack risk spiked 15% during the Christmas/New Year holidays. Did you know that severe indigestion can mimic heart attack symptoms? That’s one more reason for visits to the emergency department.
American Heart Month may not be until February, but it’s not too early to learn why.