Avoid holiday decorating hazards

by Dr. Roger Humphries

Holiday decorating is supposed to be a joyous time. But without the proper precautions, it can be dangerous—even deadly. So before you pull those light strings out of the basement and set your ladder up against the side of the house, consider the following: according to the Centers for Disease Control, almost 18,000 people have been treated in Emergency Rooms during the holidays for fall-related injuries during the past four years.

Ladders, heights, slippery surfaces and hurried schedules are a combination for potential disaster, and some of those injuries can be devastating. Broken bones are the most common fall injury, but there is also a fair number of head and spinal . In these cases, there can be long-term, serious consequences, such as paralysis. A few patients have actually died from their injuries after falling from a ladder.

Just a little more planning and attention to detail could be the difference between a near miss and a devastating injury. To reduce your risk, remember:

  • Dress appropriately: Wear shoes with dry, non-slip soles. Make sure your shoelaces are securely tied, and make sure that your pants are short enough that they cannot slide under your shoes.
  • Use the ladder safely: Face the ladder while climbing, and stay in the center of the rails. Never sit or stand on the top rung, pail shelf, or spreaders of any ladder, and never use a ladder in high winds. Be alert to nearby power lines and make sure your ladder or anything you are holding never comes in contact with a power source.
  • Know your limits: Resist the temptation to overreach. A good rule of thumb is to keep your navel within the ladder's width and move the ladder more frequently. Do not allow more than one person on the ladder at a time, and never climb a ladder without someone nearby who is able to spot you.
  • NEVER drink and decorate: Just one alcoholic beverage can impair your judgment and equilibrium. You might think you can reach that extra 6 inches (poor judgment), but you tip over instead (poor equilibrium).

And, once the holidays are over, don't forget that taking decorations down is just as dangerous as putting them up.

What if you see someone fall?

Keep them lying down and quiet. Don't move them unless it is absolutely necessary, and avoid moving the person's neck.

Stop any bleeding. Apply firm pressure to the wound with sterile gauze or a clean cloth.

Watch for changes in breathing and alertness. If the person shows no signs of breathing or movement, call 911 and begin CPR.

Seek immediate medical attention, especially if the victim loses consciousness, is confused, dizzy, vomiting, or cannot be roused from sleep.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Improved stepladder design may decrease injuries

Jun 28, 2011

Stepladders, a household product used by thousands of people every day, are a surprisingly common cause of injury. In 2009, more than 187,000 Americans visited the hospital after sustaining stepladder injuries, many of which ...

How to avoid turkey bowl injuries this Thanksgiving

Nov 21, 2013

Every year around this time, Loyola University Medical Center Sports Medicine surgeon Dr. Pietro Tonino sees a spike in sprains, contusions, broken bones and other injuries suffered in Thanksgiving pickup football games.

Recommended for you

High-calorie and low-nutrient foods in kids' TV

13 minutes ago

Fruits and vegetables are often displayed in the popular Swedish children's TV show Bolibompa, but there are also plenty of high-sugar foods. A new study from the University of Gothenburg explores how food is portrayed in ...

Chemical companies shore up supplement science

16 minutes ago

As evidence mounts showing the potential health benefits of probiotics, antioxidants and other nutritional compounds, more and more people are taking supplements. And the chemical industry is getting in on the action. But ...

More Americans in their golden years are going hungry

24 minutes ago

In a country as wealthy as the United States, it may come as a surprise that one in 12 seniors do not have access to adequate food due to lack of money or other financial resources. They are food insecure.

Researchers compare hip width and sexual behavior

1 hour ago

In a new study, women who were more inclined to have one-night stands had wider hips, reveals Colin A. Hendrie of the University of Leeds in the UK. He is the lead author of a study into how a woman's build influences her ...

User comments