Preventing accidents at Christmas

Christmas is a great time of year, but can also be one of the most stressful and dangerous. Houses become crowded with all different generations, the excitement can be intense and as a consequence fraught with additional dangers and responsibilities.

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, more than 6,000 people will end up in hospital on Christmas Day and over the Christmas period more than 80,000 people visit A&E and this number appears to be rising. Over recent years, there has been an increase in injuries involving falls from ladders while stringing lights and cuts from broken glass ornaments. Christmas trees alone account for more than 1,000 injuries each year.

If people are looking after or hosting elderly people for Christmas dinner, it is important to take extra care of them. Someone chokes on turkey over Christmas every single year.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) have issued some really helpful advice to help prevent accidents at Christmas:-

The combination of hot fat, boiling water and sharp knives make the kitchen one of the most dangerous places.
Try to keep other people (especially children) out of the kitchen. Avoid alcohol until you’ve finished cooking, and wipe up spills as soon as they happen so that people don’t slip.

Clutter, alcohol and tiredness make the stairs an accident hotspot during Christmas. People staying may be unfamiliar with the layout of the house and could fall downstairs whilst going to the loo at night. Leave a light on for them and avoid leaving any clutter on the stairs.

One of the most common Christmas Day accidents involves parents accidentally stabbing themselves with scissors, which they’ve used to assemble toys or try and extricate a toy screwed into packaging, instead of taking the time to find a screwdriver. RoSPA suggests thinking ahead and having a screwdriver to hand just in case you need it and taking a little more time over the whole process.

Fairy lights
Approximately 350 people a year are hurt by Christmas tree lights, according to RoSPA. Injuries include people falling while they’re putting them up, children swallowing the bulbs, and people getting electric shocks and burns from faulty lights.
RoSPA advice is to ‘Test your lights and the wiring before you put them up, as they can deteriorate over the years. If you have old lights, buy new ones that meet higher safety standards, don’t overload sockets, as that’s a fire risk.’

About 1,000 people a year are hurt when decorating their homes according to RoSPA. Children bite into glass baubles and adults fall while using unstable chairs instead of ladders to put up streamers, or fall out of lofts while looking for the decorations.
RoSPA advice is that ‘Glass decorations should be placed out of the reach of toddlers and pets, Novelty decorations, such as stuffed Santas, reindeer and snowmen, which look like toys, may not comply with strict toy safety regulations. Therefore, they should not be within the reach of children.’
People are 50% more likely to die in a house fire over Christmas than at any other time of year.

RoSPA advise that you should ‘Never put candles on or near a Christmas tree, never leave an open flame unattended. Always place tea lights inside an appropriate container as they have been known to burn through baths and televisions.’

Christmas plants
Mistletoe is poisonous as its berries contain toxic proteins that slow the heart rate and can cause hallucinations. The orange berries of the Christmas cherry can cause stomach pains. The Christmas rose is so effective at causing diarrhoea that it was used as a chemical weapon by the ancient Greeks.

RoSPA’s advice is to ‘Check with the garden centre whether the plants you’re buying are toxic and if they are, either don’t buy them, or keep them out of the reach of children.’

Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year. The combination of drink, relatives, lack of sleep and the stress of Christmas shopping can be too much for some people – try and have somewhere where people can take some time out and have a bit of peace. Take the children out for a walk so that elderly relatives can relax.
Indigestion and food poisoning
Food poisoning is always a worry at Christmas. Read the instructions on the turkey well and don’t risk short cuts as it takes hours to cook a turkey properly and uncooked turkey can cause salmonella poisoning, which can be life-threatening for vulnerable people.
Alcohol reduces your risk awareness. After a party, empty any residual alcohol out of glasses as children could drink the remains if they are up before the adults. Never drink and drive.

Have a wonderful Christmas period as it is a special and magical time. A little forward planning can ensure that it is a memorable time for all the right reasons. Make sure you have a good quality First Aid kit to hand and that you are equipped with the skills and knowledge to confidently help with a medical emergency.


It is strongly advised that parents attend a practical First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.

Emma Hammett
First Aid for Life – Award Winning, HSE and Ofqual Approved First Aid Training
0208 675 4036

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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