Holiday Cheer Brings Spike in Injuries

Follow safety tips to avoid trips to the ER this season

Young male hanging holiday lights

Follow safety tips to avoid trips to the ER this season

While the holidays are filled with celebration and joy, they also are associated with accidents and injury resulting in unexpected visits to the local emergency department or trauma center.

People are climbing ladders and standing on roofs to hang decorations, celebrating at parties, and drinking more alcohol.

“About 15,000 people annually suffer injuries related to holiday decorations — that amounts to 250 injuries each day during the holiday season,” says Vishal Bansal, MD, director of trauma surgery at Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego. “Nearly 5,800 of those people end up in hospital ERs for fall injuries associated with holiday decorations.”

Each year more than 400 home fires are started with Christmas trees or holiday lights, causing 20 deaths and $25.3 million in damage.

Some of the most common holiday-related injuries include:

  • Falls from ladders or roofs while decorating the homes or trees
  • Electrocution from plug-in decorations
  • Burns from fires caused by candles, electric decorations, fireplaces or deep-frying turkeys
  • Motor vehicle collisions — increased volume of holiday traffic combined with alcohol consumption
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Children choking on small parts of toys
  • Children injured while testing new bicycles, skates or skateboards, often times without a helmet
  • Interpersonal violence stemming from disputes and fueled by alcohol
  • Suicide or self-injury. The holidays, in general, are associated with an increase of depression which may lead to self-harm

“A number of studies have also found a significantly higher incidence of heart attacks and cardiac deaths in November and December when compared with the summer months,” says Dr. Bansal.

One large study found that more cardiac deaths occurred on Dec. 25 than any other day in the year. Coming in second and third were Dec. 26 and Jan. 1. 

“While we don’t know exactly why this is the case, possible reasons include changes in diet, alcohol consumption, increased stress and lack of attention to signs and symptoms of a heart attack,” Dr. Bansal noted.

What can you do to stay safe and healthy this holiday season?

  • When using a ladder, make sure it is placed on a stable surface, and get someone to help you.
  • Avoid electrical injuries and fires by making sure you use extension cords that are in good condition. Unplug cords when they aren’t in use.
  • Never drink and drive. 
  • Keep candles within sight and on stable, heat-resistant surfaces.
  • Take your medications while celebrating the season.
  • Try to eat healthy.
  • Minimize your stress. If you are feeling depressed, seek help. 
  • If you feel chest pain or other possible heart attack symptoms, don’t hesitate to call 911.