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8 tips for a safe and healthy holiday season

Photos: monkeybusinessimages/iStockphoto

Decorate with diligence

Injuries involving holiday decorating sent an estimated 17,500 people to emergency rooms in 2018, according to the latest data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Follow these tips to avoid a trip to the hospital:

  • Handle with care all decorations that are sharp, weighted or breakable.
  • Check that string lights have been approved by a safety testing laboratory, and look them over for signs of damage. Keep an eye out for broken sockets, frayed or exposed wires, and loose connections.
  • Don’t overload extension cords and power strips, and ensure all cords carry the approval of a safety testing laboratory.

Will you be using a ladder or stepladder? The American Ladder Institute says to:

  • Consider how high you’ll be climbing and the weight load of the ladder, and then pick the proper ladder for the task.
  • Place the base of the ladder on a firm surface that isn’t slippery, wet or soft.
  • Maintain three points of contact when climbing, with two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand.
  • If you’ll be using an extension ladder, make sure it extends 3 feet above the roof or platform being reached.
  • Wear slip-resistant shoes to help reduce the risk of slipping or falling.
  • Try to avoid walking across your roof to hang decorations. If you must access the roof, make sure the top of your extension ladder extends 1 to 3 feet higher than the roof eave that’s going to support the top of the ladder.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International has some additional decorating tips:

  • Plug decorations into circuits that are protected by ground fault circuit interrupters.
  • Fasten lights to trees or the house to protect them from the wind.
  • Keep decorations at least 10 feet away from power lines.
  • Be careful not to damage the cord’s insulation, and make sure cords aren’t caught in doors or windows or under heavy objects.

Protect your pets

The holidays can be a hazardous time for your pets, too. Help keep them safe by following this list of “don’ts” from the American Veterinary Medical Association:

  • Don’t share people food with pets. Chocolate, grapes, macadamia nuts, onions and any items that have the artificial sweetener xylitol are particularly toxic.
  • Don’t allow your pet access to rooms that you’ve just cleaned, unless the cleaning product you used is labeled as being pet safe.
  • Don’t leave household plants or flowers where pets can get to them. Poinsettias can irritate your pet’s mouth and stomach, and may cause vomiting. Even a small amount of lilies can cause severe kidney damage. Holly and mistletoe can upset their intestines.
  • Don’t let your pets near toys children have opened. They can easily digest the small pieces that may have been left lying around.
  • Don’t leave your pets unsupervised around tinsel, ribbon or ornaments. These items can be extremely hazardous and, if swallowed, may require surgery to remove.

Drive safely

Are you planning to travel to see friends or family? If so, you’ll want to follow these tips from the National Safety Council:

  • Get your vehicle tuned up for winter driving conditions.
  • Keep an emergency preparedness kit in your vehicle.
  • Make sure to get a good night’s sleep before you leave.
  • Buckle up.
  • Put your cellphone away and practice defensive driving.
  • Designate a sober driver if you plan to drink or take medications that can make you drowsy.

With COVID-19 still a concern, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following guidance for people who’ll be traveling:

  • Get tested with a viral test one to three days before your trip.
  • Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet from anyone who’s not traveling with you, if possible.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
  • Everyone – even people who are fully vaccinated – is required to wear a mask on public transportation.
  • Stay home and self-quarantine for seven days after traveling.

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