If the holidays are described as “the most wonderful time of the year,” they could very well be the most accident-prone time as well. Think about it. With so much going on—from opening presents, lighting up the tree, and serving Noche Buena, to setting off fireworks and toasting to a bright new year—there’s bound to be a mishap or two in the process.
“Christmas and New Year, while happy occasions, are also stressful ones because of the various elements involved,” says Amado Flores III, MD, Chairman of the Emergency Department of top hospital in the Philippines, Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed).
“We are cooking more dishes than we’re used to, dealing with our hyperactive kids, hanging Christmas lights that may overheat, and dealing with relatives who may consume more alcohol than they are used to—making our homes more prone to accidents.”
Still, it doesn’t have to be, especially now that we’re still facing a pandemic and practicing minimum health protocols, and Dr. Flores offers tips on how to keep the coming festivities fun and ER-free:
Food poisoning. “Food poisoning happens when people eat food that has been contaminated with infectious organisms like bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The improper preparation and handling of dishes can also lead to food poisoning,” says Dr. Flores. “This results in nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea. Most cases are mild but some require a trip to the ER.”
To avoid food contamination, “make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after handling and preparing food,” he points out. Ensure that utensils, cooking tools, cutting boards, and other food surfaces are washed and clean as well. Also, cook food at a safe temperature, store perishable foods promptly in the fridge or freezer, and separate raw food from ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross-contamination. “And when it doubt, throw it out,” adds Dr. Flores.
Burns. Grease and boiling water burns from cooking, sparkler burns from welcoming the New Year: the potential for burn injuries happening in the holidays is high.
“Kitchen burns can be avoided by protecting your hands with mitts and your arms with long sleeves,” says Donna De Padua, MD, MakatiMed Emergency Department Physician. “Also, stand back when removing the lid of a hot pan or from boiling oil or liquids. And keep your oven and stovetops clean as grease and debris buildup can suddenly ignite.”
As for the best way to prevent firecracker burns? “Don’t use firecrackers at home in the first place,” he/she says. “According to the Department of Health, 75 percent of firecracker-related injuries in New Year 2020 occurred at home.”
Choking. And not just on food. Toddlers have made the headlines recently for getting their hands on things and popping them in their mouths—like a button battery from a new toy or a coin from an Aguinaldo.
“For as long as a foreign object doesn’t get caught in the throat, it will go to the digestive tract and pass naturally,” says Dr. Padua. “But if the object gets stuck in the esophagus or bowel area, possible symptoms include gagging, drooling, chest or throat pain, vomiting, refusal to eat, and even abdominal pain and fever. Alert your doctor immediately when you know your child swallowed an object, and even if you believe they can pass it.”
Keeping an eye on your kids and removing any small objects from their reach are the best ways to avoid this holiday nightmare.
Falls. From seniors tripping over Christmas wires to a person toppling from a ladder after placing the star atop a tree, falls can happen even on a seemingly benign occasion like Christmas.
“Be wary of the older folks who could break their arm or hip when they fall,” warns Dr. Padua.
Keep this mishap from happening by clearing floors of wires from Christmas lights and gadgets, and quickly mopping floors of spilt drinks. If someone had to use a stepladder for some reason (to pick out items from a hard-to-reach cabinet, or place the aforementioned star on the tree), have someone hold on to the ladder for support.
Alcohol-related accidents. Apparently, no holiday get-together is complete without some alcohol and drinking involved—from glasses of champagne to usher in the brand-new year to endless bottles of beer to go with the pulutan or appetizers. Unfortunately, some tend to get carried away and drink more than they should.
Nip falls, road rage fights, and car accidents in the bud, says Dr. Padua. “In a gathering, make sure you or someone else doesn’t drink so they can help those who drank too much reach their homes safely because they’re in no position to drive. Have drunk relatives or guests sober up with coffee before leaving—or better yet, make them stay over for the night. At least you don’t have to worry if they made it home all right.”