Play It Safe – Avoid Dangerous Accidents Getting Ready For Christmas

The AMA is reminding people to try and take extra care as they prepare for the Christmas and holiday season and, in doing so, avoid dangerous accidents that can see people ending up at the medical practice or hospital emergency department.

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, said today that getting ready for Christmas involves seasonal jobs such as decorating, food preparation, and exchanging gifts, not to mention rushing around and completing last minute odd jobs and preparations around the home.

“Christmas can be a dangerous time of year as too many people sustain minor and major injuries and experience misadventure – ranging from falls and cuts to food poisoning, broken bones, and even house fires,” Dr Bartone said.

“Most accidents occur around the Christmas tree and when hanging decorations.

“Food poisoning is another preventable Christmas health issue.

“If cooking hot food, families must make sure it is properly cooked, and leftover food should be consumed within two days.

“Cooked food should be left standing at room temperature for no longer than two hours.”

See for more information on food safety.

Tips for a safer Christmas:

  • If you’re getting a Christmas tree, small is good, and make sure it is labelled ‘fire resistant’.
  • If it’s a real tree made of wood, make sure it is stable, with no sharp pine needles; and check any electrified Christmas decorations before using them.
  • Ensure ornaments and decorations are out of reach of small children and always use safe decorations that are non-combustible or flame-resistant.
  • Never have lighted candles on or near a Christmas tree or wrapping paper. If you do have candles, be sure to place them in a non-flammable holder where they cannot be knocked over.
  • If you are installing outdoor Christmas lights, check the instructions first to ensure they are certified safe for outdoor use. Install lights securely and never use nails or metal fasteners as they conduct electricity.
  • Make sure all bulbs are working properly, and check for frayed or loose electrical wires or broken connections.
  • Remember to turn off all Christmas lights before bed or leaving the house – this can prevent house fires.
  • Always use a proper and safely secured ladder, especially if using outdoors (and not just at Christmas time).
  • Avoid using furniture (chairs) when decorating indoors.
  • Be careful with children’s toys – buy or give toys that are age suitable and don’t pose safety hazards for younger children.
  • Young children can choke or suffocate on small objects, so always keep these well away from their grasp.
  • Batteries – especially button batteries – are a known danger for young children. Always keep batteries out of reach and safely secured.
  • Adults can (and do) injure themselves with knives and sharp objects. Avoid using sharp knives, especially if people have been drinking.

International experience:

The published research comes mostly from the United States and Europe, but we know that admissions to Australian hospitals are a result of similar misadventures.

  • Falls caused by installing Christmas lights can result in severe life-altering injuries with considerable morbidity and mortality.
  • In 2016, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 407 Christmas-related admissions to health centres and emergency departments in December. Of these, 84 were caused by Christmas lights, 40 were caused by Christmas trees and/or their supports, and 159 were caused by Christmas decorations. Ten per cent of admissions were for children under two years.
  • In 2010, there were 240 house fires in the USA caused by Christmas trees catching alight, leaving 13 people dead and 27 injured.
  • In 2010, more than 12,000 people fell while undertaking decorations. Unsurprisingly, ladders and Christmas are a dangerous combination, with thousands of people hospitalised after departing unexpectedly from the rungs.
  • In Europe, candles are a Christmas risk. In Switzerland, between 1971 and 2012, 28 people sustained significant burns from lighting Christmas candles, resulting in four deaths.

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