Have a Safe and Happy Holiday Season

Years ago, when working as a hospital chaplain, I met a young woman whose mother had fallen off a ladder while putting up her holiday lights. Mom didn’t think anything serious had happened and simply went to her room to lie down for a spell. The daughter became concerned when her mother ceased to be responsive and took her to the emergency room. To her horror, she found out that mom had a brain bleed that caused fatal brain damage. It was devastating news and a painful reminder that holidays are not so happy for everyone.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, the last two months of the year bring some form of calamity to thousands of holiday decorators. Fractures represent the most commonly reported injury of which half are caused by falls from ladders. While many of us like to save money doing things ourselves, we’re advised to call the professionals to address our roofline decorating and gutter cleaning especially if we’re not in tip top physical or cognitive shape. If we still want to proceed on our own, the American Ladder Institute offers free training for ladder safety.

Fire safety needs to be on the radar during the holiday seasons. USA Fire Protection offers the following tips to mitigate fire risk:

  • Toss strings of lights with broken or worn cords, or loose bulb connections. Unplug strings when replacing bulbs.
  • Use fire resistant decorations especially when placed near an open flame or fireplace.
  • advent wreathIf you use candles, place them on stable surfaces away from other decorations. Do not leave them unattended. Better yet, replace these decorative elements with ones that use tiny lights.
  • If using a live tree, keep it watered. Live trees become a fire hazard when dried out.
  • Do not leave stove-top cooking unattended even when tempted to be a good host or hostess to holiday guests. Have someone else in the house assume that responsibility, or invite your guests to keep you company while you cook.

Though we might wish it otherwise, COVID-19, RSV, and the flu have all made their presence known this season. As of 12/4/2022, the 7-day average deaths from COVID-19 neared 400 persons in the US. Given a preponderance of social gatherings during the holidays, we increase our risk of contracting and spreading disease. Vaccination remains a solid line of defense as does physical distancing and mask use. It’s also a good idea to wash hands regularly and make judicious use of hand sanitizer.

Food and drink can get us into trouble during the holidays. After all, ‘tis the season to be jolly! But there are a few things we can do to keep ourselves from harm:

  • Beware of undercooked turkeys and the stuffing that absorbs its juices. They’re among the Top 10 foods that make people sick during the holidays.
  • Take a pass on the meat tray if it has been sitting on the hors d’oeuvre table for too long.
  • Likewise, beware of eggnog that has spent too long outside the refrigerator or made with raw eggs. It may contain salmonella bacteria.
  • Travel with a designated driver if you plan to drink. If imbibing, try alternating alcoholic drinks with nonalcoholic drinks. You’ll signal to your host that you’ve taken care of your beverage needs and minimize the risk of a hangover the following day.
  • Stay hydrated!

Stress also rears its ugly head during the holidays. Some of us may feel pressure to be the perfect home decorator, host or hostess, gourmet, gift giver, and party attendee in addition to all of our other day-to-day responsibilities. We may start burning the candle at both ends and then wonder why we seem to get sick every year at this time. Let the best holiday gift you give this year be to yourself. Say NO to some things, find short cuts for others, and give yourself permission to find the joy of the season. And, as always, do your best to eat healthfully, get some exercise, and log adequate sleep.