December 17, 2009

Don’t Land In The ER This Holiday Season

If it's time to "deck the halls" of your home, be mindful of potential injuries, said an expert at Baylor College of Medicine.

"About 6,000 injuries each year are related to the holiday season," said Dr. Shkelzen Hoxhaj, interim chief of the emergency medicine section at BCM. "It's not a small problem, it's a significant issue."

Common holiday injuries

Hoxhaj says that some of the most common injuries during the holidays are related to falls from decorating. They range from back injuries to head injuries.

Another common source of holiday injuries is fires that happen due to candles or holiday lights. Alcohol-related car accidents are also common during this time of year.

Hoxhaj recommends taking precautions to prevent these potential injuries.

Preventing accidents

"It's important to minimize alcohol consumption if you are going to be driving," said Hoxhaj. "At holiday parties, make sure you know which drinks contain alcohol."

He also recommends using step stools or shorter ladders when decorating. "Make sure ladders are sturdy and clean, and that the ladder is placed firmly on the ground," said Hoxhaj.

Avoid stepping on the top two steps of the ladder, and always be sure that someone is helping you out, he added.

"It's not safe to stand on furniture when decorating," said Hoxhaj.

All holiday lights should have safety inspection stickers, and outdoor lights should be used outdoors and indoor lights indoors. Try not to have more than three sets of holiday lights plugged in per outlet, said Hoxhaj.

Trees should be fire resistant and should not be placed near fireplaces or heaters.

Parents should take extra precautions this time of year to ensure that kids are not putting anything in their mouth, like holiday ornaments or common holiday plants such as mistletoe, poinsettias and holly, which are poisonous.

Seek medical attention

If injuries do occur, know when to seek medical attention. If symptoms get better after taking an over-the-counter pain killer, it's likely that the injury has healed. However, if the injury is deeper in the skin or if you are unable to walk, seek medical care immediately.

"Any burn beyond a small first degree burn should be seen by a doctor," said Hoxhaj.

Be careful of these issues and potential dangers so that one bad event does not ruin the holiday season, said Hoxhaj.


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