With the holiday season fast approaching, our patients’ safety is a priority for our team. Each year, we see a variety of holiday and winter-related injuries that result in emergency room visits.
Whether you are standing on a shaky old ladder stringing lights, hammering in nails to hang the wreath, preparing a large holiday feast or traveling to see loved ones, this is a busy time of year. With all the festivities going on, safety can easily be forgotten.
Learn about common holiday injuries and safety tips below.
Most Common Orthopedic Injuries During the Holidays
The holidays are a busy time and physical movement always carries with it a risk of injury, especially if a couple holiday drinks come into play. In addition, the colder weather can affect your joints and cause pain and added risk of injury. Emergency rooms across the country see an increase in orthopedic injuries once the flurry of activity that comes with preparing, celebrating, and cleaning up during the holidays begins. If you have sustained an injury that is non-life-threatening, a visit to an orthopedic urgent care center might be enough to treat your injuries.
Hanging decorations around the house, putting up the Christmas tree, and other holiday activities that involve the use of a ladder can lead to serious falls that result in orthopedic injuries. Falls can also happen when slipping on icy pavement or when playing a winter sport. You could easily lose your footing and fall, which can result in a hip, leg, knee, elbow, arm, shoulder and wrist fractures.
Winter weather brings with it ice skating, skiing, snowboarding and sledding. Activities involving ice or snow carry a very high risk of injury. You could fracture, sprain or strain your foot or ankle when you slip on ice. Many families spend holidays skiing and participating in other winter sports that can cause hand, wrist and finger injuries due to slippery conditions which can result in slips and falls.
Shoveling snow or lifting heavy boxes of decorations can cause aches and pains. Since we do not shovel snow all year round, our bodies are not used to the pressure or motion. If you live in a region with frequent slow fall or find yourself shoveling for many hours at a time, you could develop an overuse injury. Rotator cuff injuries, back injuries and knee pain are common after snow shoveling. When shoveling and lifting, be sure to bend at your knees to relieve pressure on your lower back and arms.
General Holiday Safety Tips
The holidays are a time for family and fun décor. But all these changes to your environment bring about risk of injury. Whenever possible, keep electrical cords out of walkways and out of reach. Keep hot dishes and liquids off low tables or push them to the back of the counter to keep small hands from dumping them over.
We have compiled a list of other safety tips to help keep your family safe during the Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.
Ladder Safety Tips
Falls are second only to car accidents as a holiday-related cause of injury. The general rule: The higher the fall, the worse the injury is likely to be.
Think of your ladder as a tool much like you would a drill or saw that can be very dangerous if you are not extra vigilant.
Key ladder safety tips:
- Choose the right ladder for the job. Step stools or lower-reaching utility ladders are good for indoor jobs. Extension ladders should generally only be used outside.
- Always check your ladder for broken hinges or rungs and loose screws.
- Place only on stable, flat surfaces away from power lines and doors.
- Have a spotter to help hold the ladder or to call for help if there is a fall.
- Wear shoes with slip-resistant soles.
- Use only ladders in good condition that are the right size and weight rating for the job.
- Never stand on the top rung.
- Use with only one person at a time on the rungs.
- Watch out for risks overhead.
- Drinking and decorating/taking down decorations is not recommended.
During holiday celebrations, there can be more obstacles on the floor that can cause you to trip and fall. Prevent muscle strain and other orthopedic injuries by maintaining awareness of your surroundings at all times. Watch out for presents and decorations that may be on the ground. If you are hosting a celebration, make sure extension cords are secured away from high traffic areas. Make sure walkways are kept clear, especially if you have elderly visitors or young children. Remove all throw rugs before guests arrive as they are surprisingly common tripping hazards.
Keep in mind that grandfathers and grandmothers do not always fully recover from a fall, so make preventing one everyone’s responsibility.
Carving Safety Measures
Whether you are carving a turkey, ham or roast, knife safety is a big part of holiday safety. The American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) reports that hand injuries during the holidays are also caused during meal clean-up, resulting in tendon and nerve injuries from lacerations.
- Do not cut toward yourself. Place your free hand on the opposite side of which you are carving.
- Make sure your cutting space is dry and well-lit.
- Your cutting utensils should be dry and adequately sharpened. Using extra force because of a dull blade could lead to injury.
- Do not allow young children to carve, cut or chop.
Avoid Burns and Cuts in the Kitchen
Burns and accidental cuts are a common result of preparing big meals in a chaotic space. Stove burners left on, knives sitting on the counter, turkey pans with hot drippings can be a recipe for disaster, especially if your space is cramped and you have toddlers underfoot. The best way to avoid accidental spills and burns is to make sure the kitchen is off-limits for toddlers and young children.
Christmas Tree Fire and Fall Prevention
- Use only light strands that are in good condition. No candles.
- If toddlers or pets are in the house, use gates to block off the tree from sitting and walking areas.
- Place only soft, non-chewable ornaments low on the tree to avoid choking hazards.
- Artificial trees should be fire-rated. Natural trees should be kept well-watered.
- Anchor your tree to the ceiling or walls to ensure it stays upright.
- Make sure you have a working smoke alarm in your home.
- Understand that holly and mistletoe are toxic if accidentally ingested. Place them well out of reach of children and pets.
Luggage Lifting and Carrying
At this time of year, many of us are traveling. Whether you are packing an overnight bag or you are checking several bags, keep these safety tips in mind to avoid common neck, back and shoulder injuries.
- Avoid luggage that is difficult to transport (wheels make traveling less challenging)
- Pack light if your luggage does not include wheels or you will have to lift the bag into an overhead bin.
- Be careful when storing your bags in overhead compartments. Placing luggage on the seat first and slowly lifting with your legs can help prevent strain or sprain.
- While hurrying between connecting flights can be quite common, rushing with lifting or carrying heavy luggage can lead to injury.
- If you suspect that your suitcase may cause strain, check it or locate a luggage carrier.
Holiday Car Accidents
Car accidents are easily the leading reason for trauma center visits year-round, and this number rises even higher during the holidays.
The usual tips for drivers should be amplified:
- Pay attention to the road.
- Minimize distractions.
- Avoid having even one alcoholic drink, since we invariably overestimate our sobriety level and ability to drive.
- Slow down.
Knowing When to Go To the Emergency Room
If you think that your injury may be life-threatening ALWAYS choose the emergency room instead of an urgent care. The emergency room is a better choice for more severe orthopaedic injuries and offers expanded resources for treatment if:
- Your arm or leg is severely crooked
- Bone has broken through the skin
- There has been significant blood loss
- There are other complicating factors such as multiple injuries, concussion or head injury, etc.
Call Ventura Orthopedics Today!
An injury can happen very quickly, which is why it is necessary to be cautious and attentive while carving pumpkins. By following these tips and carving with care, the scariest part of the holiday will rightfully be the decorations and costumes!
The experienced and dedicated orthopedic surgeons at Ventura Orthopedics are here for you. If you are concerned about problems that you are experiencing with your shoulders, neck or back, talk to the experts at Ventura Orthopedics today. Call us today at 800-698-1280 to schedule an appointment.
We wish you a safe and injury-free holiday season!