The Twelve Mishaps of Christmas


On the first day of Christmas: 1 in 50 people have fallen out of the loft while getting decorations down.

On the second day of Christmas: 8% of those aged 16-24 have ended up in A&E during the festive season.

On the third day of Christmas: 700,000 people have been injured in a sale rush when shopping.

On the fourth day of Christmas: people are 50% more likely to die in a house fire over Christmas than at any other time of the year.

On the fifth day of Christmas: 2.6 million people have fallen off a stool or ladder while hanging up decorations.

On the sixth day of Christmas: each year about 1,000 people are injured by their Christmas tree, usually while fixing decorations to the higher branches.

On the seventh day of Christmas: more than 1 in 40 people have suffered an electric shock due to badly wired Christmas lights.

On the eight day of Christmas: between 1997 and 2010, 26 people died in the UK from watering their Christmas tree with the lights on.

On the ninth day of Christmas: 600,000 people have burned themselves roasting chestnuts over an open fire

On the tenth day of Christmas: 49% of those preparing Christmas food have suffered an accident: 1 in 10 have spilled hot fat on themselves when cooking

On the eleventh day of Christmas: nearly 1 in 5 have cut themselves preparing vegetables

On the twelfth day of Christmas: more than 80,000 people a year need hospital treatment for injuries such as falls, cuts and burns during the festive period, according to the NHS.  With 6,000 of these needing to be admitted.

And we haven’t even mentioned the 400,000 burnt Christmas turkeys!

These festive statistics from RoSPA and National Accident Helpline show that although Christmas is a magical time of year, it is also a time when there are more accidents in the home, for both humans and pets.

Decorations, fires, new toys, visitors, cooking and houses packed with over-excited children and extra animals pose a lot of potential hazards.

Factor in the additional seasonal stress and alcohol and you can start to understand how people fall foul of the festive season.

We have put together an essential guide of common accidents that occur so you can avoid becoming a Christmas statistic. Follow our top tips to keep you and your family safe over the holidays from The Twelve Mishaps of Christmas.




One of the effects of alcohol that can make it dangerous is its ability to reduce one’s risk awareness. Accidents are more likely to happen in the kitchen and home if you have overdone the alcohol, if cooking refrain from drinking alcohol until the food is on the table.

If someone has collapsed having drunk too much; check they are breathing and then roll them into the recovery position to keep their airway clear. Someone should stay with them at all times, this is particularly important if they are vomiting.

At the end of the party make sure any residual alcohol is emptied out of glasses as early rising children could drink the dregs. Never drink and drive.

Fairy lights and decorations

A staggering 350 people a year are injured by Christmas tree lights, including falls while they are being put up, children swallowing the bulbs, and electric shocks and burns.

Test your lights and the wiring before you put them up. If necessary, buy new ones that meet higher safety standards, look for BS Kitemark. One in 40 people have suffered an electrical shock due to badly wired Christmas lights.

Don’t overload sockets it can lead to overheating and electrical fires. Avoid cables being a tripping hazard. Buy a cable guard so your pet can’t chew through the wires, cats, dogs and rabbits will all attempt this.

Switch off any electrical decorations at night and make sure your guests also know how to do so.

Glass decorations should be placed out of the reach of toddlers and pets. Children and pets can be hurt if they bite into glass baubles

Festive flames and fires

Over the Christmas period there is a huge increase in house fires. People are 50% more likely to die in a house fire than at any other time of the year.

Keep any Christmas cards, paper decorations and the Christmas tree away from heat sources such as candles, fires or heaters, as they can catch alight and burn easily

Check that your smoke alarms are working, so there’s time to get out if a fire does start. Don’t forget to check the Carbon Monoxide alarm too.

Tea lights should be an appropriate glass container to prevent burning through baths and televisions. Blow out all candles before heading to bed.

Do get your chimney swept if you are planning on having a festive open fire.


Hot food, boiling water and sharp knives can make the kitchen particularly hazardous.

Try to keep everyone other than the cook, especially pets and children, out of the kitchen. One in ten children’s accidents happen in the kitchen.

Refrain from drinking alcohol until the cooking is finished and wipe up any spills as soon as they happen so people do not slip.


Alcohol, tiredness and excited children make the stairs an accident hotspot during Christmas. Make sure stairs are free from clutter.

Leave a light on for guests staying who may be unfamiliar with the layout of the house, who could fall down the stairs whilst going to the toilet at night. If you are a guest over Christmas think about taking portable stair gates for your children.



Button batteries

Button batteries are found in many children’s toys and books. But while batteries in children’s products are covered by safety regulations and are required to have a screwed-down cover, many Christmas novelty items such as flashing Santa hats or musical cards are not. Be aware these may pose a risk to children and pets.

Button batteries release corrosive acid that can burn the inside of intestines, causing major internal bleeding. Ensure all batteries are safely secured inside toys, remote controls, cards and gadgets. If a battery is missing and you think it possible a child has swallowed it, take them to A&E immediately for an x-ray as lithium batteries can kill within hours.


button batteries

Food poisoning

Food poisoning is always a worry at Christmas. There are an estimated one million cases of food poisoning every year and this doesn’t rest for the festive season. So much so that the NHS has guidelines to cooking turkey safely. Click here.

If you are cooking turkey make sure you read the instructions carefully and never risk taking short cuts as it takes hours to cook the bird properly.

Undercooked turkey can cause salmonella poisoning, which can be life-threatening, especially for those who are very young, old or frail.

Medicine poisoning

Medicines are the most common cause of accidental poisoning in children, with everyday painkillers a frequent culprit. The contents of Granny’s handbag could prove lethal. Remind visitors to keep all medication secure and out of sight and reach, not left in an open handbag or counted out on a bedside table.


The berries from the holly, mistletoe, Christmas Cherry and Christmas Rose are poisonous to children. Just 20 berries from the Holly could kill a child if ingested. Amaryllis and ferns are also toxic to cats and dogs. Check with your florist or garden centre whether the plants you’re buying are toxic. If they are choose something non-toxic or keep them out of the reach of children.




Silica gel

Silica gel comes in small sachets and is used to keep moisture out of electrical equipment, clothes, bags or toys. It is small and easily missed so be aware to look out for it. It is toxic to humans and pets.


When opening presents ensure you have necessary scissors and screwdrivers. Many injuries occur on Christmas day with people battling to open difficult packaging as quickly as possible, using makeshift tools.

Be aware that when buying from market stalls or pop up shops, toys may be illegally imported and may not meet strict safety guidelines.

Always buy age appropriate toys for your little ones. Make sure there are no small parts that could be a choking hazard.


Glass and fragile decorations should be out of reach of toddlers and pets. Novelty decorations, such as stuffed Santas, reindeer and snowmen may look like toys do not have to comply with toy safety standards and may be dangerous. Keep them out of the reach of children.

Small parts from toys or gadgets, novelties from crackers or even burst balloons can easily become a choking hazard for children.

Peaceful pets

Houses full of people, with extra visitors and excited children, can be extremely stressful for your pet. The change in routine can also worry them. Reduce their festive stress by maintaining their routines for food, exercise, bed and toilet breaks to increase a their sense of security.

Offer a cosy retreat, away from the noise and excitement, so your pet can have some peace and quiet. Leave toys there to create positive associations with the retreat.

Children can be overpowering, desperately wanting to stroke and pester them. The additional stress of unfamiliar noises and over-stimulation can cause them to snap. Be very sensitive as to when your pet needs a break. Remind guests not to feed your pets any scraps.


Make sure your dog enjoys long walks to ensure they are tired to stop any bored or disruptive behaviour. The same applies to humans too!


Written by Emma Hammett – First Aid for Life

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First Aid for Life is a multi-award-winning, fully regulated first aid training provider. Our trainers are highly experienced medical, health and emergency services professionals who will tailor the training to your needs. Courses for groups or individuals at our venue or yours.

First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

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