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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Mistletoe and folly: Staying safe during the holidays

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DES PLAINES, Ill. – The winter holidays are traditionally a time of celebration and merriment, but they can also be a time of stress and errors in judgment that can land people in the emergency department.

Emergency nurses see the results of careless actions every day, and this year the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) is offering safety tips to ensure that you and your loved ones have a happy and healthy holiday season.

“This can be a hectic time of year, and it’s not uncommon for people to let their guard down or overlook basic health and safety measures as they travel, entertain and celebrate,” says ENA President AnnMarie Papa. “We want you to spend the holidays with family and friends, not in the emergency department with us.”

ENA is urging everyone to take simple precautions to ensure that the holidays are safe and memorable, by offering the following safety tips:

Over the river and through the woods.

If you’re driving to your destination, don’t over pack the car. Ensure everything is secured in a way that nothing will go flying if you’re in a minor accident. Young children should be in car seats, and seatbelt and speed limit laws should always be followed.

Take adequate breaks to rest if you’re driving a long distance. Don’t text and drive, and use hands-free devices to make phone calls.

Make sure your car has a basic first aid kit and an emergency kit that includes essentials like water and flares. “Pay attention to the weather,” Papa says. If the roads will be icy, consider leaving later in the day or rescheduling.

To Grandmother’s house we go.

Medication – whether yours or your guests’ – should be kept in a secure, childproof location. Encourage visitors with medical conditions to provide you with contact information for their doctors and a list of the medications they take. If you feel unprepared to host small children, have their parents walk around the house with you, Papa says. “They know their children best and can identify the dangers you might not have noticed.”

Say, what’s in this drink?

“Wash your hands, wash your hands and wash them again,” Papa says. Prevent food poisoning by using separate cutting boards, plates and utensils for raw and cooked meat, and be sure to cook meat to the appropriate temperature. Keep leftovers tightly wrapped and properly refrigerated. Don’t place hot food at the ends of tables or on a table cloth because children could pull these items down onto themselves. Find out ahead of time if any of your guests have allergies or special dietary needs.

Monitor your guests’ alcohol consumption and provide non-alcoholic alternatives. Never get behind the wheel of a moving vehicle – including snowmobiles and four-wheelers – after having consumed alcohol.

Rockin’ around the Christmas tree.

Prevent fires by using only nonflammable decorations. Keep holiday trees well-watered to prevent them from drying out, and keep all decorations away from candles and other heat sources. If you do use candles, buy them in jars or other containers to avoid open flames.

If you have small children or pets that might knock ornaments off holiday trees, choose plastic over glass or hang fragile decorations out of their reach.

Make sure your outdoor lights are intended to be used outside, and never put strings of lights where people can trip over them. Inspect lighting for shorts and frays before use. Try to avoid decorations that look like food or candy if there will be small children around.


Check the suggested age range on a toy’s package. Toys with small parts are choking hazards for young children. If it will fit through a toilet paper roll it is too small to let a child play with.

“Holiday cards and toys with button batteries are becoming an increasing problem,” Papa says. “Those batteries are small enough for a child to swallow and they corrode. They can erode through a child’s esophagus and even their stomach, and cause major damage.”

Frosty the Snowman.

If you have to use portable heaters make sure they’re in open spaces, away from things that might catch fire. Check the product specifications to make sure they’re intended for indoor use and turn them off when you leave a room or go to bed.

Dress appropriately for cold weather in loose-fitting layers. Cover your ears and wear a hat. “You lose most of your heat from your head,” Papa explains.


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