BritMums – Safety at Christmas

Each year our hospitals see a festive swell of more than 80,000 people needing treatment for injuries such as falls, cuts and burns during the Christmas holidays. According to the NHS, around 6,000 of those injured, will need to be admitted. Of course, Christmas is a special time of year. However, as these figures from RoSPA and the National Accident Helpline show, it is also a time when there is a spike in the number of accidents in the home.

Houses packed with over-excited children and extra visitors present potential hazards. The pressure of cooking and hosting for family and friends can make many of us feel overwhelmed. In the chaos and commotion of Christmas we often rush and that’s when accidents can happen.

Factor in seasonal stresses and excesses, increased socialising and travelling plus winter cold and bugs and you see why people fall foul of the festive season.

My guide to common accidents that occur at this time of year will prevent you becoming a Christmas statistic. Follow these top tips to keep you and your family safe over these holidays and a happy Christmas to you all!

Fairy Lights 
The Christmas Statistic: more than 1 in 40 people have suffered an electric shock due to badly wired Christmas lights.
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.
Do test your lights and the wiring before you put them up as they can deteriorate. If necessary, buy new lights that meet higher safety standards – look for BS Kitemark.
Overloading sockets 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 as cats, dogs and rabbits will all attempt this.
Do switch off any electrical decorations at night and make sure your guests also know how to do so.

The Christmas Statistics: 1 in 50 people have fallen out of the loft while getting decorations down.
2.6 million people have fallen off a stool or ladder while hanging up decorations.
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
Novelty decorations, such as stuffed Santas, reindeer and snowmen may look like toys but don’t have to comply with toy safety standards and may be dangerous. Keep them out of the reach of children.

Festive flames and fires
The Christmas Statistic: you are 50% more likely to die in a house fire over Christmas than at any other time of the year.
Do keep any Christmas cards, paper decorations and the Christmas tree away from heat sources such as candles, fires or heaters. All can catch alight and burn easily.
Be aware that tea lights can burn through baths and televisions so stand them on an appropriate base. Blow out candles before heading to bed.

Check your smoke alarms are working. Do stock up on AA batteries before Christmas, so if you need batteries for a new toy or the TV remote control, you won’t remove them from the smoke alarm.
If you are planning on having a festive open fire, do have your chimney swept.
Finally, do be aware that a staggering 600,000 people have burned themselves roasting chestnuts over an open fire.

The Christmas Statistics: 49% of those preparing Christmas food have suffered an accident.
1 in 10 have spilled hot fat on themselves when cooking and nearly 1 in 5 have cut themselves preparing vegetables.
And the 400,000 burnt Christmas turkeys tell their own stories of Christmas mayhem and mishaps.
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
Try and hold back from drinking alcohol until the cooking is finished and wipe up any spills as soon as they happen so people do not slip.

Christmas Trees 
The Christmas Statistics: around 1,000 people are injured by their Christmas tree each year usually while fixing decorations to the higher branches.
Between 1997 and 2010, 26 people died in the UK from watering their Christmas tree with the lights on.

People can be hurt by their tree falling over, by trying to attach decorations to the top of it, or by trying to cut it to size with a saw. Trees can catch fire from faulty lights, being too close to an open fire or from candles. Trees can be toppled by a pet or small child pulling at them.

Christmas Plants 
The Christmas Statistic: just 20 berries from the Holly could kill a child if ingested.
The berries from the Holly, mistletoe, Christmas Cherry and Christmas Rose are poisonous to children. 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, either choose something non-poisonous or keep them out of the reach of children.

The Christmas Statistic: 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 found in many children’s toys and books pose a risk to children and pets. Although 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.
Button batteries are corrosive and burn the inside of intestines, causing major internal bleeding. Ensure all batteries are safely secured inside toys, remote controls, cards and gadgets.

Silica gel 
The Christmas Statistic: silica gel comes in small sachets and is toxic to humans and pets.
It is often used to keep moisture out of many items, especially toys. As the sachets are small and easily missed, be aware to look out for them.

Medicine poisoning
The Christmas Statistic: medicines are the most common cause of accidental poisoning in children, with everyday painkillers a frequent culprit.
Be aware that Granny’s handbag may be lethal. Christmas brings many visitors who may need reminding to keep all medication secure and out of sight and reach, not left in an open handbag or counted out on a bedside table.

Food Poisoning
The Christmas Statistic – did you know the NHS has guidelines how to cook a turkey properly?
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.
Don’t take short cuts when cooking turkey. It takes hours to cook the bird properly and undercooked turkey can cause salmonella poisoning. This can be life threatening especially for those who are very young, old or frail.

The Christmas Statistic: 8% of those aged 16-24 have ended up in A&E during the festive season for a range of reasons.
Accidents are more likely to happen in the kitchen and the home if you have overdone the alcohol. Space drinks out with non-alcoholic ones.
At the end of the day make sure any residual alcohol is removed as children might rise earlier than everyone else the following morning and could drink any remains.

The Christmas Statistic: of the 5,051 people who died from choking in 2015, 2,848 were older than 74. Choking is the fourth leading cause of death by unintentional injury.
It’s not just turkey bones you can choke on. Small parts from toys or gadgets, novelties from crackers or even burst balloons can easily become a choking hazard for children.

The Christmas Statistic: many injuries occur on Christmas day with people battling to open difficult packaging as quickly as possible, using makeshift tools.
Ensure you have necessary scissors and screwdrivers when opening presents.
If you have bought toys from market stalls or pop up shops, be aware they could be illegally imported and may not adhere to strict safety guidelines.

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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