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  • Scripps Health

Holiday cheer brings spike in injuries

Follow safety tips to avoid trips to the ER this season

While the holidays are filled with celebration and joy, they also are associated with accidents and injury resulting in unexpected visits to the local emergency department or trauma center.

People are installing decorations, lighting candles, celebrating at parties and drinking more alcohol.

“About 15,000 people annually suffer injuries related to holiday decorations,” says Vishal Bansal, MD, director of trauma surgery at Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego. “That amounts to 250 injuries each day during the holiday season, with nearly 5,800 of those people ending up in hospital ERs.”

Surprising seasonal statistics

Each year more than 400 home fires are started with Christmas trees or holiday lights, causing 20 deaths and $25.3 million in damage. And about a third of accidental injuries are due to falls from a roof or ladder while putting up lights or decorations. That’s why Walter Biffl, MD, Scripps Clinic trauma surgeon and medical director of trauma and acute care surgery at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, urges taking every precaution if you’re venturing onto elevated surfaces.

“Make sure your ladder is sturdy and have someone to help,” he says, “so if you drop the lights you’re not leaning over.”

Other common holiday-related injuries include:

[if !supportLists]· [endif]Electrocution from plug-in decorations

[if !supportLists]· [endif]Burns from fires caused by candles, electric decorations, fireplaces or deep-frying turkeys

[if !supportLists]· [endif]Pedestrian accidents

[if !supportLists]· [endif]Children choking on small parts of toys

[if !supportLists]· [endif]Children injured while testing new bicycles, skates or skateboards – often without a helmet

Dr. Biffl notes that the higher volume of holiday traffic, often combined with alcohol consumption, causes increased car accidents.

“The stats on motor vehicle crashes are remarkable,” he says. “There are spikes year after year. Around the holidays, we tend to be looser in policing our friends and ourselves. It’s something to be mindful of.”

Holidays also linked with rise in cardiac emergencies and intentional injuries.