According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 15,000 people are treated in hospital emergency departments each year during November and December for injuries occurring while decorating for the holidays. The most frequently reported incidents include falls (34 percent), lacerations (11 percent) and back injuries (10 percent). “We’ve all been there—rushing before company arrives, hurrying up because it’s getting dark, or trying to be quick so you can spend more time with the family. That’s when it happens, a fall, a laceration or even a fire. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to holiday decorating,” states Dr. Charles Muntan, Lakeview Regional’s Emergency Department Medical Director. “We see so many preventable injuries during the holiday season. It always saddens me to see family or friends missing out on this special time because they are here in the ER with me.” Muntan encourages using common sense and taking extra precautions to prevent injury during the holiday season, but when accidents do happen the Emergency Department at Lakeview Regional is prepared with board certified physicians 7 days a week.
For more serious injuries, such as trauma cases involving motor vehicle accidents, major falls, and other life-threatening injuries from traumatic events, Lakeview Regional is equipped with a variety of surgeons and specialists on site 24-hours a day to respond within minutes of a trauma call. Dr. Marco Hildalgo, Medical Director of Trauma at Lakeview Regional states, “if a patient comes in with a possible head injury, our neurosurgery team is available 24/7 and will quickly evaluate the injury, resulting in better outcomes.” Lakeview Regional’s recently expanded Emergency Department services make it the first choice for care for Northshore residents.
Tips to make your holiday a safe one, so you can avoid visiting the Emergency Room (ER):
- Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
- Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
- In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
- Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.
- Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards. Use only lights that have fused plugs.
- Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
- Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Make sure the extension cord is rated for the intended use.
- Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
- Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles into older homes.
- Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples to hold strings in place, not nails or tacks. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
- Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
- Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights - they could unravel and inadvertently wrap around power lines.
- Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.
- When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
- When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
- When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and radiators. Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
- Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children.
- Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.