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12 Ways to Keep the Holidays Safe

Use These Tips on Gifts, Ladders, Sockets, and Alcohol for an Injury-Free Holiday Season
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 22, 2008 -- As children everywhere make last-minute changes to their lists for Santa, emergency physicians are giving adults their own list to consider: a dozen ways to stay safe during the holidays.

Each year, an estimated 11,000 people are treated in hospital emergency departments because of some type of decoration-related injury, Nick Jouriles, MD, president of The American College of Emergency Physicians, says in a written statement.

"We will always be there to treat you, no matter when you come in," Jouriles says, "but we hope you won't have to celebrate the holidays in the hospital!"

The organization offers the following holiday safety tips:

  1. Beware of Booze. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Always have a designated driver.
  2. Unwrap Responsibly. Be careful when opening gifts. Don't use a razor blade, if scissors will suffice.
  3. Watch What You Eat. Don't eat food that has been sitting out for a long time. Always cook food thoroughly and store it safely. (Every year, 76 million people in the U.S. get sick from contaminated food.)
  4. Hang Lights With Care. Use a proper-sized ladder when hanging decorations, and don't do it alone. Have another adult help, especially to hold the ladder.
  5. Sled Safely. Wear a helmet, choose low-traffic areas, and avoid obstacles, including shrubs.
  6. Detect Carbon Monoxide. Carbon monoxide, an odorless gas, kills people in the winter when furnaces and heaters are turned on. Install detectors and check to make sure they are working. Clean out fireplaces and make sure fireplaces, heaters, and stoves have proper ventilation.
  7. Don't Overload Sockets. Don't cram too many decoration plugs into an electrical socket. Overload is a fire hazard and can also cause electrical shock to a person.
  8. Beware of Falling Ornaments. Make sure all holiday decorations and Christmas trees are securely anchored and that young children can't pull them over.
  9. Remember the Helmet: If your child is receiving a bike, skateboard, or scooter for the holidays, don't forget to include a helmet and other safety gear.
  10. Keep Aspirin at the Ready. If you feel chest pains, chew an aspirin and go to the emergency room.
  11. Don't Over-Shovel. Shoveling snow can cause heart attacks. Avoid it if you are out of shape, elderly, or have a history of heart problems.
  12. Don't Overdo at Dinner. Don't over-indulge (especially salt) if you have high blood pressure or heart problems.

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