The holidays are perfect for getting together with loved ones and partying merrily, and you don’t want to spoil your fun with any mishaps. Here are 18 of the most common health hazards that occur over the holiday season, and how to avoid them.
1. Burns and Scalds
With all of the cooking and baking that happens around this time, it’s more than likely that someone will end up burning themselves on a hot baking pan, or get spattered by some stray grease.
Make sure that you have a supply of pot holders, oven mitts, and dishcloths handy, and touch handles very lightly before grabbing them. Use grease-spatter covers when frying things, and ensure that you keep the kitchen from getting too crowded: too many cooks = inevitable injuries. Don’t even think about deep-frying a turkey.
As with the example mentioned above, cooking and baking can often result in cuts and scrapes. Chopping onions with a sharp knife, grating lemon rind for cookies…all can result in pain and bleeding. That’s not much fun at all, especially since you can risk contaminating dishes with your own blood.
Be present and aware as you work, as a lack of focus is a primary cause of kitchen injuries. Keep a first aid kit handy in case of any cuts, and if you do manage to slice yourself, wear latex gloves afterward to minimize infection and contamination.
3. Food Poisoning
If you’re working with any kind of animal protein (like turkey or ham), or various condiments that have been in the fridge for a while, you run the risk of spreading salmonella or any number of harmful moldy bits.
Double-check every canned or pre-packaged item before you use it, and be sure to wash every knife, cutting board, and work surface regularly to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Wash your hands before and after prepping anything, and before serving as well. Don’t leave any meat or dairy products on counters or tables for too long, and if your egg nog has been sitting untouched for an hour, you might wish to pour yourself a fresh glass.
4. Ornament Dangers
If you have small children or pets, stay away from breakable glass ornaments, tinsel, and anything sharp. Little hands, muzzles, and beaks can get hurt very badly by the very things you’re using to beautify your home.
Hugging and kissing relatives, shaking hands while schmoozing at office parties, touching sticky door handles while holiday shopping…all of these are perfect opportunities for illnesses to find their way into your body.
Make sure that you wash your hands often, keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in your pocket, and keep your fingers out of your mouth, eyes and nose. If one of your relatives is hacking and sneezing, keep distance from them and just bellow at them that you love them dearly, but are in the process of getting over something or another and can’t afford to be re-infected.
Sure, stringing a bunch of lights all over your house creates a beautiful effect, but you won’t be able to enjoy it if you’re stuck in the emergency room.
Be sure to have someone spot you when you’re up on a ladder, and only climb up during daylight hours. Use a ladder indoors as well, as even the sturdiest chair can be more precarious than you think.
7. Slipping on Ice
Ice is sneaky, and likes to hide on stairs, sidewalks, and driveways, just waiting for an unsuspecting person to step on it.
Be sure to use a sand/salt mixture on any treacherous bits of pavement, and when you walk across this areas, shuffle your feet to slide them across while keeping your center of gravity low: you’ll have less chance of falling, and can regain your balance if you slip around a little. Wear flat boots or shoes with good treads, and for goodness’ sake, don’t be an idiot and prance around outside in stiletto heels: save those for indoor parties.
8. Chills and Frostbite
Going tobogganing with your nieces and nephews sounds like a great idea, but there may be some chilly consequences. Although you might feel warm while you’re being active, you may end up a bit cooler than you’re trying to be. Sub-zero temperatures can wreak havoc on your skin, and fat-free extremities like toes and fingers are particularly susceptible to frostbite and cold damage.
Wear layers that you can add and subtract as needed, be sure to wear gloves and mittens, invest in a good pair of long johns, and make friends with woolen socks.
It sounds odd to think of sunburns occurring in wintertime, but they’re actually quite common. People who spend part of their holidays skiing, snowboarding, or just playing outdoors can end up with some pretty nasty pinking around the face and ears.
Get yourself a good, high-quality sunscreen and apply it liberally before going outside. Actually, if you’d like to decrease sun damage to your skin in general, you might like to apply a thin layer of sunscreen any time you plan to be outside for a while.
10. Car Accidents
Slippery roads, poor visibility (yay snow!), and countless other hazards are common at this time of year. Please drive safely and responsibly, and never, ever drive after you’ve been drinking.
Keep an emergency kit in your car, along with a bag of sand, some blankets, and snacks, and never assume that the drivers around you are as responsible as you are.
11. Toy Hazards
Do you have any idea how many people manage to slice themselves open on hard plastic toy or gadget covers every year? Those things can be treacherous, as can many other toys out there.
Be aware of where your gifts originate from, as it’s best to avoid those made with toxic chemicals and tiddly bits that can choke your young relatives, and open packages with care.
Cooking a holiday dinner for a dozen people while trying to ensure that the house stays tidy, your outfit stays immaculate, and your dog doesn’t eat the decorations can be absolutely maddening. In fact, heart attacks increase by a full third when the holidays roll around, and the number of people who have strokes, panic attacks, and nervous breakdowns also increases exponentially.
Delegate as much as you can to other people, and remember that the folks who’ll be celebrating at your place are friends and family members who love you: it’s absolutely okay if the cranberry sauce is a bit lumpy.
13. Alcohol Poisoning
It’s fun to have a couple of drinks while you’re partying, but chugging a bottle of whiskey on your own isn’t terribly good for you.
Alcohol poisoning is easily avoided by drinking responsibly, having a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage consumed, and snacking on oily/fatty foods like deviled eggs, olives, nuts, and cheese.
That Norwegian spruce might look lovely, but if you have any tree allergies, you might end up having an asthma attack or breaking into hives. People with pet allergies may find themselves having a sneeze-fest if they visit a home where cats reign, and food allergies may rear their heads after bites into unfamiliar pastries.
Be sure to keep a supply of antihistamines in the house, and a tube of hydrocortisone cream at the ready in case of a rash or hive breakout. If you have an anaphylactic reaction to anything (peanuts, mushrooms, etc.), keep an EpiPen handy and let your hosts know about your allergy ahead of time.
15. Loneliness and Depression
Many people are alone at this time of the year, and Christmas is just behind Valentine’s Day when it comes to suicide rates.
If you’re alone over the holidays and feeling down, consider volunteering at a soup kitchen or visiting with elderly folks or those in hospitals. Accept invitations to meals and celebrations when asked by friends or co-workers, and if things get really bad, remember that there is always help available to you.
Children and pets are most at risk for electrocution, as sparkly holiday lights can look so tempting to gnaw upon, but you’d be surprised at how many adults get hurt this way as well.
Keep outdoor lights unplugged until you’ve arranged them the way you like, and don’t let Grandpa use a knife to fish burnt crumpets out of the toaster.
Many people light their fireplaces and wood stove around this time of year, and candles are common decorations in many households.
Keep the doors of wood stoves closed while logs are burning, and make sure that kids aren’t tempted to throw miscellaneous bits into them just to see whether they’ll burn or not. Never leave a candle burning unattended, keep matches and lighters away from little hands (and pyromaniacs), and use a fireplace screen to keep sparks away from the carpet.
18. Pet Poisoning
The last thing you want to do is accidentally poison your pet, so be sure to do your research on which plants and foods are toxic to your furred or feathered friend.
Keep yew, lilies, and poinsettias out of the house if you have any pets, and don’t share your holiday dinner with your dog, cat, or bird until you’re certain that what you’re eating won’t have any adverse effects. Some tidbits that you may find delicious (like chocolate or avocado) can have really nasty effects on their health.