Five Safety Tips for a Safer and Healthier Holiday Season

Dec 24, 2013, 9:06 AM

file Give the gift of holiday safety with a dose of prevention. Photo courtesy of wantmorepuppies on Flickr:

We hate to be the bearers of buzz kill, but folks should think about adding “safety” to their holiday wish lists this year. Researchers at the Consumer Product Safety Commission say there are about 250 injuries a day during the holiday season. Last year the most frequently reported holiday accidents seen in emergency departments involved falls (34%), lacerations (11%) and back strains (10%). And from 2009 through 2011, fire departments nationwide responded to an average of 200 fires in which the Christmas tree was the first item ignited—resulting in 10 deaths, 20 injuries and $16 million in property loss for those years. Candle-related fires during holidays between 2009 and 2011 resulted in an estimated 70 deaths, 680 injuries and $308 million in property loss.

Best tips for avoiding Holiday fires: discard sets of holiday lights with evidence of damage such as broken sockets and bare wires; water Christmas trees frequently; and always extinguish candles before leaving a room.

Here are our top five safety tips for the holidays culled from the websites of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration:

  1. Don’t throw wrapping paper into the fireplace. A flash fire may result from burning wrapping papers because they can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
  2. While doing holiday cooking, keep your knives sharp. Most knife injuries occur due to dull blades.
  3. Use a clean food thermometer to cook foods to a safe internal temperature before serving. Using a thermometer that was inserted into food, especially meat and poultry, and left to sit on a counter, can actually introduce bacteria into the food you’re preparing.
  4. Throwing a party? Make sure you have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks in view; that step can help your guests ratchet down their alcohol consumption.
  5. Owners of new, cool and expensive gifts often make it too easy for burglars to figure out which homes to target by putting boxes that identify their haul in plain view with their other garbage. Don’t leave boxes identifying what you got outside your home or apartment door. Break down boxes or put them in garbage bags or inside trash containers; and wait until just before the trash men come before placing trash, and trash containers, outside.

The best remedy for holiday safety buzz kill is a small dose of preparedness.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.