The Holidays are almost upon us and, for most, it’s a time of cheer and goodwill, etc.  However, it’s also a time of year when accidents, illnesses  and injuries occur that are directly related to the festivities.  As a public service, brings you the following tips to keep you safe and sound throughout the holiday season:

1.Hire a professional (or act like one) to decorate your house.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that approximately 5,800 people a year were treated in hospital emergency rooms during the holiday period for these injuries.  The CDC believes that the numbers are under-reported because they only counted those who were treated in ER’s – not in physicians’ offices.

If you aren’t the type (like me) who repairs your roof or clean out the gutters, why in God’s name would you think of climbing up a very tall ladder to put Christmas decorations up there?  If hiring a seasonal decorator is not in your budget, make sure you wear rubber-soled shoes and use a sturdy ladder planted firmly on the ground.  Or better yet, maybe those lights would look better closer to the ground.

2. If you’re not a seasoned professional, avoid Black Friday sales

Have you seen what goes on in those stores on Black Friday?  It isn’t for the faint of heart or out of shape individual.  Seriously, you should begin training for next year’s sale the day after this year’s – just as you would for a marathon or, better yet, an ironman competition. Wearing the proper clothes can certainly help – I recommend a suit of armor or, at the least, one made of chain mail.

To make matters worse, many stores have increased the hours of Black Friday, with many of them starting Thanksgiving Day.  Maybe marathon training isn’t enough anymore.  Stay home, sit on your comfortable sofa, whip out your laptop or tablet and order away.  You might suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome when you’re done, but that’s far better than being stampeded in Wal-Mart.

3. Don’t drive while intoxicated

While this applies to any time of the year, somehow I feel that people need to be reminded not to over-indulge and drive during the holiday season.   According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), deaths from drinking and driving spike around the holidays, with alcohol being blamed for about 52 percent of fatal collisions on Christmas and 57 percent on New Year’s compared to a rate of 41 percent for the entire year. In addition to the more than 1,200 alcohol-related deaths that will occur on the road this holiday season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that more than 25,000 people will be injured.

If you’re planning to indulge at a holiday party, appoint a designated driver or use a Taxi service.  And never let anyone you know drive while intoxicated.

4. Reduce the stress 

It’s the most wonderful time  of year, right?  However, it’s quite ironic how spreading all that goodwill and cheer can be so stressful.  This is supposed to be the feel-good time of year, so try to keep calm and don’t sweat the small stuff.  I know it’s easier said than done, but allowing yourself too much stress can have psychological, as well as physiological effects.   so here are a few tips to help reduce some of the stress:

  • Apply numbers 1-3 of this blog post.
  • Chant “Serenity Now” repeatedly (Seinfeld-style).
  • Create a shopping budget and stick to it.
  • Watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” every day (in black and white).
  • Buy something for yourself – you deserve it.
  • Commit multiple random acts of kindness.
  • Anything else that makes you feel better, provided it’s legal.

5. Keep your Christmas tree hydrated.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the estimated property losses as a result of Christmas tree fires was about $19 million  in 2009.  Candle-related deaths during this same period resulted in 74 deaths and $347 million in property damage.  According to the CPSC, a lot of these accidents could have been prevented.

The CPSC recommends:

  • Check for freshness when you purchase your tree.   
  • Place your tree away from heat sources
  • If you buy an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.”
  • Use only lights that have been tested (usually by Underwriters Laboratory).
  • Check each set of lights and extension cords for cuts and/or fraying.

6. If you’re too old to try your child’s new toy – don’t try it

This  advice was borne of my own experience – I thought riding my daughter’s brand new Razor Scooter down a steep hill would be fun.  It was, until I hit a pothole and went down the rest of the hill sans scooter.  Needless to say, the rest of the holiday season wasn’t particularly joyful.

My first memory of an adult being injured playing with a child’s toy was when my Uncle Bob tried instructing my brother and on the use of the Hula Hoop.  Unfortunately, the toy didn’t come with a warning not to attempt using it while intoxicated (Uncle Bob’s usual  state).  Not only did he injure his back with his demonstration, but he also injured the coffee table and lamp when he fell on them.

7. Carve the turkey – not your hands

Carving the turkey in my family wasn’t only about carving the turkey – it was a rite of manhood, passed down through many generations.  When the knife was passed on to me, I was expected to perfectly carve the bird clean.  Not surprisingly, carving-related injuries spike on Thanksgiving day.   The American Society for the Surgery of the Hand (ASHH) recommends the following carving tips:

  • Never cut towards yourself. One slip of the knife can cause a horrific injury.
  • While carving a turkey or cutting a pumpkin your free hand should be placed opposite the side you are carving towards. Don’t place your hand underneath the blade to catch the slice of meat.
  • Keep your cutting area well-lit and dry. Good lighting will help prevent an accidental cut of the finger and making sure your cutting surface is dry will prevent ingredients from slipping while chopping.
  • Keep your knife handles dry. A wet handle can prove slippery and cause your hand to slip down onto the blade resulting in a nasty cut.
  • Keep all cutting utensils sharp. A sharp knife will never need to be forced to cut, chop, carve or slice. A knife too dull to cut properly is still sharp enough to cause an injury.
  • Use an electric knife to ease the carving of the turkey or ham.
  • Use kitchen shears to tackle the job of cutting bones and joints.
  • Leave meat and pumpkin carving to the adults.  Children have not yet developed the dexterity skills necessary to safely handle sharp utensils.
  • Lastly, should you cut your finger or hand, bleeding from minor cuts will often stop on their own by applying direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving from