Written by SMH Injury Prevention Coordinator Susan Williams
It’s officially “The Holidays” — time for family gatherings and getaways, for decking the halls with things sparkly and bright, and for gifting children with shiny new toys!
All the merry-making certainly can be magical, but it also brings seasonal safety risks and an uptick in visits to emergency rooms and trauma centers.
Play it safe this holiday season with these injury prevention tips.
Driving During the Holidays
More than 3,170 people lost their lives in traffic accidents across Florida last year, and 50 of those deaths happened in Sarasota County, according to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Roadways get extremely busy during the holiday season with holiday shoppers, party-goers and vacationers. As traffic on the roads increases, so does the risk of accidents. Hitting the road? Use these tips:
- Be a defensive driver.
- Always use proper safety restraints (seatbelts, car seats, etc.)
- Do a car safety check before leaving for a roadtrip; check tire pressure, indicator/brake lights, gas/oil level, etc.
- Keep an emergency kit in your car; stock it with such items as a first-aid kit, flashlights, toolkit, jumper cables, flares or reflectors, and engine oil / coolant.
- Plan your route ahead of time when heading out of town, and make considerations for high traffic times.
- Make sure you’re well rested before departure, and pull over when you’re tired or consider alternating drivers during longer trips.
Deck the Halls Safely
Decorating for the holidays always helps us get in the spirit of the season! If your holiday décor includes indoor / outdoor lights, decorations and a Christmas tree or plants, follow these pointers:
- Practice ladder safety.
- Only use lights for their intended purpose; for example, lights labeled “indoor” should not be used outside; likewise, “outdoor” lights should not be used indoors.
- Don’t overload string-light sockets; package instructions list the maximum number of light sets that can be strung together.
- Make sure extension cords are out of the way and do not pose a tripping hazard.
- Some holiday plants and even baking spices can be toxic, if eaten in high amounts. Do your research, and keep poisons away from children and pets.
- If you have young children or young visitors, consider programming the poison control phone number into your phone, or post it on the fridge, for easy access in an emergency: (800) 222-1222.
- Decorating with a live Christmas tree or wreath? Keep it well watered, and remove it when it becomes dry, so it does not become a fire hazard.
- If an artificial tree is more to your liking, invest in one that is flame resistant.
Beware Button Batteries
Be mindful of toys and decorations that use button batteries. These shiny, coin-size batteries can be especially enticing for curious toddlers. Not only do they pose a choking hazard, but they can cause a potentially fatal chemical reaction if ingested.
Be sure kids cannot access the battery compartment on toys or decorations, and store extra button batteries far out of reach. Click here to learn what to do if you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery.
Smart Toy Shopping
If toys on are on your holidays shopping list, keep these rules of thumb in mind:
- Gift age appropriate toys. Toys with small pieces or foam parts can be a choking hazard for children younger than 3.
- Packaging materials like bags and tie straps also pose a choking risk for toddlers and infants.
- When gifting scooters, bicycles, skateboards or other riding toys, be sure the recipient has a proper-fitting helmet and any other needed safety equipment.
Planning to imbibe at a holiday gathering? Appoint a designated driver or hire alternate transportation like a taxi or rideshare service (Lyft, Uber, etc.), if you drink alcohol or take medication that can impair your driving ability.
More Holiday Survival Tips
Check out these blog posts and videos from other Sarasota Memorial medical experts:
As the injury prevention coordinator for Sarasota Memorial's Trauma Services, Susan Williams, RN, BSN, serves as a critical link between the trauma team and the community it serves through education and outreach.