Dangers of the Holiday Season: Fires and Falls and Poison, Oh My!

The holidays, with their ho ho hos, mazel tovs, carols, and gift-giving, are the picture of good cheer. But there’s a darker side, a dangerous side, a side that wants to smack you flat on your butt, set you on fire, and leave you crapping your pants.

Thankfully, there are ways to protect yourself.

People fall all the time and manage just fine, but light decorating for the holidays offers the opportunity to fall from great heights. Then people are less fine. From 2000 to 2003, the CDC saw that during the holidays, falls for adults aged 20 to 49 rose from 30 percent to 62 percent. And those are just the falls that resulted in hospital visits. When you’re stringing lights around your roof, trees, chicken coop, what have you, make sure to use the proper equipment (what I mean is: use a ladder), and for heaven’s sake, get a spotter to hold the base securely. You don’t want to spend the most wonderful time of the year in a back cast.

Fire is a danger that results in over 20 deaths and 25 million dollars in damage per year. The cause? That festive Christmas tree, and those cheery decorative lights. The solution? If you have a natural tree, water that sucker. Water it again. For Christmas, give it water! And make sure your lights are in good working order—no bald spots, hard kinks, or frayed patches—and that you are following the instructions to a T. Do not use outdoor lights indoors. Do not overload electrical sockets. While in use, check the wires—they should never be warm to the touch. And don’t keep your atmosphere-enhancing holiday candles close to anything flammable.

Another safety hazard is the decorative holiday plant. The worst offenders are Mistletoe, Holly, Jerusalem Cherry, and Bittersweet. These can really mess people up intestinally, and if a kid or pet ingests them in any amount, call Poison Control (1-800-222-1222). Poinsettias and pine needles are mildly toxic and may result in vomiting. To ensure control of everyone’s bowels this holiday season, either keep all this stuff out of your house, store it up high and out of reach, or place it in netting so no leaves or berries end up on the ground. (Also, go easy on the spiked eggnog.)

I could go on (coronary deaths are at their highest on Dec. 25 and 26; turkey frying can result in full-on yard incineration; kids contract alcohol poisoning after getting into the spiked punch), but instead I’ll end on a positive note: the holidays, thankfully, do not lead to a spike in suicide rates.

by Mica Habarad