While the holiday season is a time for joy and celebrating with family, it can also be a bit dangerous. Many of our most cherished Christmas traditions, from eggnog to Yule logs, also carry some risk of injury, or even death. To ensure you have a safe and happy Christmas, here are some threats to be on the lookout for this holiday season.
1. Icy surfaces: Icy sidewalks and driveways are threat all winter long, but these slick concrete surfaces are especially dangerous when you're leaning a ladder up against the roof to hang some lights. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 5,800 people take a trip to the emergency room each year as a result of falling while putting up Christmas lights and decorations. So before you climb up that ladder, make sure it's on level ground free of ice or snow.
2. Eggnog: While your Aunt Edna's special homemade eggnog might be the toast of Christmas Day, it could also be harboring the nasty little pathogen salmonella. If you're making your own eggnog, use pasteurized egg products, the Food & Drug Administration recommends, or heat the eggnog to 160 degrees Fahrenheit to wipe out any potential for salmonella.
3. Undercooked poultry: Eggnog isn't the only culinary risk at Christmastime. Undercooked turkey can also be dangerous. So don't rely on a cheap pop-up thermometer. Invest in a good probe thermometer so that you can be certain your bird and stuffing are cooked to the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommended temperature of 165 degrees F.
4. Faulty wiring: Before you plug in a single stand of lights, carefully inspect the cables for any cracked insulation or fraying. Faulty Christmas lights account for 13 percent of Christmas tree fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
5. Dry trees: Christmas trees account for 250 fires each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). Make sure to keep your tree watered to reduce the risk of a blaze.
6. Watch your candles: A dry tree actually isn't the biggest fire threat in the home. Candles cause an estimated 15,600 residential fires each year, according to the USFA. So if you plan on lighting a few festive candles or mark the days of the Christmas season with an advent wreath, practice candle safety. Don't leave a room with a burning candle and make sure all candles are on a stable surface clear of curtains, ornaments or other dangling combustibles.
7. Blocked chimney: Many people like to gather around the hearth and light up a Yule log. But if you haven't used your fireplace since last year, the chimney could have gotten clogged with leaves and debris. Make sure to have your chimney inspected each year, the USFA recommends. And don't put wrapping paper, boxes or other debris into the fire, which burn very rapidly and can send off sparks.
8. Heart attacks: The holidays can be stressful, and that stress can be deadly. The number of heart attacks peaks on Christmas Day, according to a study in the journal Circulation. If you're feeling stressed, take a walk to calm down and clear your head. It's also wise to avoid other potential triggers, like over-eating or excessive alcohol. But most importantly, if you have a history of heart problems, see your doctor before the holidays, and before it is too late.
9. Drinking and driving: Alcohol-related fatalities spike on Christmas and New Year's Day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If you plan on celebrating the holidays with some potent potables, leave the car behind and call a cab. And for sober drivers, practice a little extra caution on the roads during the holidays. You never know who you're sharing the road with.
Adam Verwymeren originally wrote this for Networx.com. It is reprinted with permission.
MNN homepage photo: Dalboz17/Flickr
Related on MNN: