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Bank accounts aren’t the only thing to sustain trauma during the holiday season. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, falls, lacerations and back strains were among the top holiday decorating-related injuries in recent years, accounting for an average of more than 12,000 visits to U.S. hospitals every December.
NorthShore Sports Medicine Physician Adam Bennett, MD, spends most days focused on sports medicine but has witnessed his share of holiday hazards knocking both athletes and non-athletes off their feet. He offers the following five tips to avoid holiday injuries so everyone can enjoy the festivities at home instead of in the Emergency Department:
1. Use Caution on the Ladder:Putting plastic reindeer on the roof and hanging lights from the eaves isn’t a daily activity for most people. That means there is an influx of inexperienced ladder users climbing to new heights at the end of each year. Avoid falls that could lead to broken bones, concussions, and pulled back muscles by decorating with a buddy so one person can remain on the ground to hold the ladder steady and offer assistance if needed. Also, be sure the ladder is in tip-top shape by checking for wet or broken runs before climbing up. Finally, be sure to place the ladder on solid, even ground and for every four feet of height you have to climb, move the base one foot away from the wall.
2. Lift with Your Legs:Whether hauling a tree to the top of the car for transport or unloading packages at the in-law’s house, the holidays come with lots of bending and lifting. The key to avoiding undue back strain is to lift with your legs. That means bending your hips and knees to squat down to your load, keeping it close to your body, and straightening your legs to lift. Also, never lift a heavy object above the shoulder level. Also, avoid turning or twisting your body while lifting or holding a heavy object.
3. Never Underestimate Jack Frost:Whether you live in a region where snow and ice are the norm this time of year or you’re visiting a colder climate for the holidays, the risk remains when it comes to freezing temperatures. Shoveling snow is no easy task, which is why proper preparations and equipment is important. If you know ice is in the forecast, consider a pre-emptive strike by putting out ice-melting products, such as rock salt and cat litter mix. This can help prevent slips on porches and walkways, while also minimizing some of the shoveling needed to clear a safe path. If you do find yourself having to shovel snow, wear proper footwear to avoid slips and dress appropriately to ensure muscles stay warm. Also, remember this isn’t a race, so take breaks and avoid overloading the shovel.
4. Don’t Drink and Decorate:Climbing ladders, nailing hangers, and cutting packaging are activities best performed with unencumbered reflexes. While a cup of eggnog might just fit the bill for celebrating with family, wait to toast with alcohol until the decorating is complete and then, it is still best to do so in moderation. Not only does alcohol intake impact equilibrium and judgement, drinking alcohol can thin the blood—a dangerous combination when it comes to orthopaedic injuries.
5. Keep the Knives on the Dining Room Table:Injuries incurred while wrapping or unwrapping gifts are commonly seen by hand surgeons in late December. Lacerations and puncture wounds occur when people use knives, scissors, and other sharp objects to wrap or open their presents. The best solution, in this case, is to only use tools for their intended purposes, which means investing in a safety blade for opening boxes is definitely worth the couple of dollars it costs. Also, make a point to always cut away from you and other people, and intervene immediately if you see a child struggling to open packaging.