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Avoiding Holiday Hazards


Robyn S. Medina, DO, a family medicine physician at Penn Family Medicine Valley Forge, offers tips on how to avoid the added risks that accompany the holiday season.

Robyn S. Medina, DOThe holiday season is a time for relaxing and celebrating with friends and family. Sitting in front of the fireplace, admiring the decorations and, possibly, sipping on some seasonal cocktails are likely some of the items on your to-do list.

Sorry to be the coal in your stocking, but the most wonderful time of the year can be the most hazardous. Dr. Medina is here to help you prepare for the holidays without the added risks sometimes associated with them.

Enjoy the glow without going up in flames

Although candles and fireplaces can create a cozy ambiance, increased use combined with other seasonal decorations means more risk for fire. Make sure you:

  1. Never leave burning candles unattended or sleep in a room with a lit candle.
  2. Keep candles out of reach of children and pets.
  3. Don't burn candles near trees, curtains or other flammable items.
  4. Don't burn trees, wreaths or wrapping paper in the fireplace.
  5. Check and clean the chimney and fireplace area at least once a year.

Get into the festive décor while leaving out the danger

From tinsel to mistletoe, and Poinsettias to spray snow, holiday decorations are all around. Creating festive displays is one of the best ways to get in the holiday spirit; however, you should make sure you pay attention to any small children or pets that may be around.

  1. When trimming the tree, place breakable ornaments and those that have metal hooks toward the top, away from the smaller creatures in your house.
  2. Keep poisonous plants (including some Poinsettias) out of reach of curious children or pets.
  3. Keep indoor paths clear of wrapping paper, decorations, light wires, toys, etc.
  4. Remember not to spray chemicals when others are around. Adding a frosty look to a surface is easy with spray paint; the problem is it can irritate lungs if inhaled, especially those of little tikes.

Keep holiday drinking under control

Broken holiday ornamentIf there is ever an opportunity to overindulge, the holiday season is it. Between the eggnog, mulled wine, champagne and other alcoholic beverages, the options just seem to be a bit more enticing this time of the year.

If the concern of becoming the topic of water-cooler chatter or making those family gatherings a bit uncomfortable isn’t enough, keep this in mind: The time between Christmas and New Year’s is one of the most dangerous times of the year to be on the road. This is because of the number of people on the road significantly increases, which also means those driving under the influence increases. On New Year’s Day, nearly half of all traffic fatalities involve alcohol, the most of any U.S. holiday.

Make sure you:

  1. Know who’s the true man (or woman) of the hour (AKA who’s your designated driver?).
  2. Buckle up, no matter how long or short the distance being traveled.
  3. Don’t text and drive. Distracted driving causes one-quarter of all crashes.
  4. Are prepared for more traffic than usual and possibly bad weather.

Ensure this month is a time of joy and cheer. Just a bit of preparation can go a long way in helping you and your friends and family safely enjoy the season.

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