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How to Avoid a Holiday Trip to the ER

Following basic safety rules should help keep celebrants safe

THURSDAY, Dec. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Each year during the holidays, tens of thousands of Americans have to go to hospital emergency departments for treatment of preventable injuries and illnesses. That includes about 11,000 people with some type of decoration-related injury, said Dr. Nick Jouriles, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

"We will always be there to treat you, no matter when you come in, but we hope you won't have to celebrate the holidays in the hospital! It's important to make your health and safety a priority and to take some time to plan ahead," Jouriles said in a group news release.

The physicians' group offered 12 tips for staying safe and healthy during the holidays:

  • Be responsible when drinking alcohol. Always have a designated driver and drink in moderation.
  • Be careful when using sharp objects to open gifts. Don't use a razor blade when a pair of scissors will do the job.
  • Don't leave food out for long periods of time because it increases the risk of bacterial food poisoning. Cook food thoroughly and refrigerate it immediately after a meal.
  • Use proper-sized ladders when putting up and taking down decorations. Always have someone else help you, especially to hold the ladder.
  • When tobogganing or sledding, wear helmets and stay in low-traffic areas with few obstacles such as trees, shrubs or large rocks.
  • Clean all fireplaces and make sure all fireplaces, heaters and stoves have proper ventilation. Install and frequently check carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Don't overload your electrical outlets with decoration plugs. Doing so could start a fire or cause a serious electrical shock.
  • Ensure that Christmas trees and decorations are secure, anchored down and sturdy, so that they can't fall or be pulled down by children.
  • If you give your child a new bicycle, skateboard or similar gift, make sure you also give them a helmet and other appropriate safety gear -- and then insist that they use it.
  • Don't shovel snow if you're out of shape or elderly or have a history of heart problems.
  • Have aspirin available to you at all times in case of chest pains. If you feel chest pains, chew an aspirin and seek emergency medical help.
  • If you have high blood pressure or heart problems, don't overindulge in holiday food and avoid excessive salt intake.

More information

The city of Calgary offers more Christmas safety tips.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American College of Emergency Physicians, news release, Dec. 18, 2008

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