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Holiday Decorating Can Land You in the ER

Take Care to Avoid Falls While Decorating, Says CDC
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WebMD Health News

Dec. 9, 2004 -- About 5,800 people spend part of their winter holidays in emergency rooms, tending to fall-related injuries sustained while decorating. So says the CDC, based on data from the 2000-2002 winter holidays.

According to their estimates, two to three people every hour were treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries sustained while decorating during each of the 2000, 2001, and 2002 holiday seasons.

Most of those spills (62%) were taken by people aged 20-49. However, young people usually avoid falls during the rest of the year, accounting for only a third of yearly fall-related injuries.

Men were 40% more likely than women to be injured in holiday decorating falls. For both sexes, fractures were the most common injuries.

Most injuries (43%) happened when people tumbled off ladders while decorating. Fewer people fell off roofs (13%), furniture (11%), or stairs (3%). More people may have been injured but didn't go to an emergency room.

That doesn't make holiday decorating dangerous. Decorating-related injuries represent less than 1% of the nearly 2 million injuries from falls that occur each holiday season, says the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Just take sensible precautions.

For instance, if you need to gain a little height to place ornaments on a Christmas tree, don't try to balance on a chair or other piece of furniture. A step stool is a better option. It's also wise to notice possible hazards, such as slipping on tree skirts.

Since ladders account for most fall-related decorating injuries, the CDC offers these ladder safety tips:

  • Make sure ladders are on secure, level ground before climbing.
  • Space the ladder's base 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 feet it extends up.
  • Stay centered between the ladder's rails. Don't overreach to the side, instead move the ladder.
  • Don't stand on the ladder's top two rungs.
  • To reach a roof, extend the ladder at least 3 feet beyond the roof's edge.
  • Keep the area clear around the top and bottom of the ladder.
  • Ensure step ladders are locked open securely.
  • Never use a folding step ladder when it's closed.

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