Safety Tips for Seasonal Decorating

Hanging holly and trimming trees are favorite activities during the most wonderful time of the year. But holiday decorating can also be hazardous to your health.

“We see a lot of broken necks, broken backs and broken legs during this time of year, usually from people falling off of ladders,” says David Smith, M.D., trauma medical director at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. “But there are many simple steps people may take to stay safe when decorating their homes.”

Mind the Ladder

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 6,000 people head to the emergency department every year to seek treatment for injuries sustained from falling while decorating for the holidays.

To reduce your risk, choose a sturdy ladder and grab a buddy to spot you as you climb. Place your extension ladder a proper distance away from the wall it will rest against — one foot for every four feet of ladder height is generally a good rule of thumb — and be sure the rungs are clean and slip-resistant. If the weather gets rainy or windy, pack it in and plan to work another day.

Also, never push your body to climb a ladder if you are on certain medications for your heart.

“If you’re an older person on blood thinners,” Dr. Smith says, “you should not be going up a ladder — ever.”

Take Care of the Tree

Nothing is more festive than a fresh Christmas tree. But when they get too dry or close to heat sources, these trees can also be quite flammable. To keep your tree from catching fire, make sure it stays well-watered and away from radiators, fireplaces and other flame sources. Make sure the tree is not in a high-traffic pathway where it could be knocked over, and turn off decorative lights before leaving the house or going to bed.

Accent with Awareness

No holiday display is complete without nicknacks such as mistletoe and ornaments. But these final touches can be dangerous to babies, small children and pets, so be sure to keep certain things out of reach and in good repair.

Make sure decorations don’t have sharp edges and are free from lead and other toxic materials. And if you are decking your halls with fresh mistletoe grown right down the road or a bright red poinsettia, remember that, as pretty and natural as these plants may look, they are by no means edible.

In the event of a medical emergency, call 911 or visit the nearest Texas Health emergency department.

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