‘Tis the season to be jolly, not hospitalized. However, this time last year, approximately 15,000 people injured themselves and visited emergency departments due to holiday decorating mishaps, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
The injuries, which are typically at their height during November and December, range from everything from falls (the most common) to incidents involving unattended candles and Christmas trees. However, we know that festivities often stretch into the New Year, with candles still burning at parties and people climbing ladders to remove decorations well into January.
“There are about 250 injuries a day during the holiday season. Adding safety to your checklist can keep a holiday tradition from becoming a holiday tragedy,” says CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler. “Keep Christmas trees watered well, don’t leave candles unattended, and use caution whenever you are on a ladder.”
Here are some tips on how to stay safe and healthy now and into the New Year when it comes to holiday decorating.
Five Tips for Staying Safe During Holiday Decorating
1. Eat and Sleep Right
What does eating healthy and getting adequate amounts of sleep have to do with holiday decorating safety? Plenty. Around the holidays, when we’re attending numerous get-togethers and events, food and late hours are common. Eating excessive amounts of foods, especially all kinds of bad-for-us candies and appetizers, not to mention those who indulge in more alcohol consumption than normal, can reduce our energy and make us foggier. Couple that with lack of sleep, and we’re more likely to forget to water a tree or blow out a candle, or trip on a cord. Staying alert helps us remain more mindful of holiday decorating safety.
2. Keep an Eye on the Christmas tree, Lights and Candles
Maintaining the freshness of your Christmas tree is imperative. The CPSC reports that from 2009 to 2011, fire departments responded to over 200 fires which resulted in 10 deaths and $16 million in property loss. In addition to making sure your tree is kept watered, or has a “fire resistant” label if it’s artificial, make sure candles are not placed near them and that light cords are not frayed or bulbs are not loose. Also make sure lights, on your tree or elsewhere, are in line with safety standards. Check to make sure that the lights you’re using are nationally recognized by a testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). This applies to lights you’re currently using, as well as ones you may buy on sale now for next year.
3. Only Put Logs in the Fireplace
After opening gifts, resist the urge to toss wrapping paper in the fireplace. While it may be convenient to throw wrapping paper in the flames, a flash fire could result since such paper can ignite extremely fast.
For those who think they’d enjoy some added colors to the fire, be wary of fire salts. The reason they make the flames change color is because they have a heavy metal content. If accidentally ingested (usually by young children), gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting may occur.
4. Listen to the Weather Person
While people often tease that the weatherman often provides incorrect predictions, it’s still important to heed their advice. Those outdoor decorations you put up in November or even October may have been easy, but removing them a few months later may mean navigating icier or windier conditions that are therefore more dangerous. Remember to think ahead and plan accordingly based on what the weather may mean for your holiday decoration removal. Accidents don’t just happen when the decorations are being put up!
5. Go Easy on the Competitive Decorating
These days, when TV shows and internet videos about neighbors who are trying to compete with other neighbors for the most outrageous holiday display (indoor and out) are gaining popularity, it’s tempting to consider adding to our own decorating style. Some neighbors even pride themselves on being the ones to keep their decorations up the longest, putting trees to the curb and taking decorations down weeks after the last person. As such, they’re likely holding onto dry, fire-prone trees and subjecting themselves to accidents for a longer timeframe. Remembering the “less is more” adage may be wise. Too many cords and lights may result in overloading electrical systems, falling from ladders and increasing the chance of everything from fires to stepping on a broken bulb. Go easy!
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