Hidden hazards cause ER visits to skyrocket during the holidays

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Here are some tips for avoiding holiday-related accidents

As consumers prepare to celebrate the holidays, they may face a number of hidden hazards. A recent analysis of data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) regarding holiday-related ER visits showed injuries tend to skyrocket in the weeks surrounding Christmas.

Many seemingly harmless holiday items and activities -- like cooking, decorating, and unwrapping gifts -- have the potential to turn a joyful holiday gathering into a scary trip to the emergency room.

In an interview with ConsumerAffairs, Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst for InsuranceQuotes.com, explained that while head injuries are the most common kind of injury around the holidays (over 550,000 registered cases since 2006), unwrapping presents is actually the most dangerous activity.

Common holiday dangers

Opening gifts can be a risky activity if you’re using a sharp object to get the job done. Serious lacerations and wounds have occurred when eager gift openers used knives to cut through packaging.

Wrapping paper itself can even cause bodily harm. One man checked into the ER after he scratched his eye with wrapping paper, according to the NEISS data.

Adams says head injuries have been the most common concern since 2006 during the days surrounding Christmas, with thrown basketballs causing the most head injuries among those aged 5- 24.

Other health hazards may lurk in the kitchen. Broiler fires are responsible for the largest number of kitchen-related ER visits around the holiday season, but burns from open flames or touching hot objects are also prevalent this time of year.

“Staying alert and cautious while baking those Christmas cookies in the kitchen is essential, as burns are a very common injury,” Adams said.

Tips for staying safe

Adams points out that seniors over the age of 65 are especially susceptible to injury around the holidays, noting that the demographic accounted for “300,000 of all registered injuries since 2006.”

To help ensure you and your loved ones stay safe, be sure to take the following precautions:

  • Take care while opening presents. Lacerations account for over 750,000 injuries over the holidays. To reduce the risk of injury, be careful when using sharp objects to unwrap gifts.

  • Avoid ornament dangers. Keep weighted or breakable decorations out of the hands of small children to help avoid cuts or lesions.

  • Stay safe in the kitchen. Christmas and Christmas Eve ranked as the most dangerous days for home cooking fires in 2013, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Never leave the stove or oven unattended, and be sure to avoid distractions in the kitchen if you are the cook.

  • Position your tree safely. If you decide to invest in an artificial tree, Adams says it’s important to make sure it is positioned in a well-ventilated area and away from other items -- such as near furniture, pillows, and gifts -- that may catch fire more quickly in the event of an emergency.

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