COVID-19 may be health and safety concern number one in 2020, but it isn’t the only hazard you need to look out for this holiday season.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2019, 17,500 people landed in the emergency room due to holiday decorating accidents, with an average of about 200 injuries per day. A further 162,700 children under the age of 15 received ER treatment due to injuries from choking on small toy parts and sustaining other damages from unsafe gifts. The holidays are supposed to be a time of respite and restoration before the busyness of a new year begins, and a visit to the emergency room is the antithesis of that.
Diligently following safety guidelines related to COVID-19, food preparation, driving and travel, gift giving, and decorations helps prevent you or your loved ones from having to take a trip to the ER when you should be reveling in one another’s company. As healthcare and safety professionals, we have compiled multiple checklists for you to go through as you prepare for your favorite festivities.
Keep our information on your refrigerator or in another easy-to-find location if worst comes to worst. We are located at 10133 Interstate 10 East, Baytown, TX 77521 and may be reached by phone at 281-576-0555.
We have already discussed COVID-19 several times on the Patients ER blog because of how critical it is to share and circulate accurate information. As always, the safest possible things you and your loved ones can do is self-isolate and wear masks, maintain social distancing, and thoroughly wash or sanitize your hands regularly in the event you must leave the house. However, these guidelines may not be possible for every household. Extra precautions need to be taken with at-risk family members, especially if they live with others who work or go to school outside of home.
For detailed information on COVID-19 prevention during and after the holidays, please refer to the following blogs:
Planning a COVID-Safe Holiday Season
Coronavirus: Keep Your Family Safe
Trying new and exciting dishes is one possible way to make the holidays special, pandemic or not. Obviously you don’t want to let a hot meal turn into a hot mess, so we’ve compiled a comprehensive checklist of kitchen safety measures so you can spend your holidays with family… and not with us in the ER.
- Wash your hands before and after handling any foods, especially raw meats.
- Wash food, appliances, utensils, and countertops before and after handling any foods. Clean cans and jars storing food as well.
- Do not thaw foods on the countertops. Instead thaw in the fridge, under cold water, or in a microwave, which are the safest thawing methods to prevent contamination or spoilage.
- Place all marinating food in the fridge. Do not let food marinate on countertops.
- Use separate cutting boards, plates, utensils, and towels for produce and meats to prevent cross-contamination.
- Cook all meats and eggs to the recommended internal temperature before serving. You can find a handy chart here.
- Refrigerate leftovers within two hours.
- Properly store all foods. You can find instructions on safe storage for a variety of dishes here.
Appliance and Implements Safety
- Make sure all cords are in good shape, without stripping or fraying.
- Make sure all knives are sharp. Dulled knives are actually more dangerous because they require more pressure to properly cut, increasing the odds of slips.
- Cut away from yourself.
- Do not heat any containers in the microwave or oven without explicit confirmation from the manufacturer that they are microwave and/or oven safe. Proper use guides should be indicated on the packaging or on the container itself. If you’re unsure, don’t use it.
- Keep a kitchen fire extinguisher on hand. Never use water to put out grease or electrical fires, as this can lead to the fire spreading or, worse, an explosion.
- Keep children and pets away from the kitchen during prep and cooking to prevent spills, cuts, and burns.
Whether cooking for one or the entire family, these guidelines are your best defense against food poisoning and injuries. You deserve a stress-free holiday season.
Although snow and ice are a winter rarity in the Baytown area, that doesn’t mean they don’t surprise us from time to time. In addition, if you decide to travel for the holidays this year, you may run into unfamiliar inclement weather on the drive. The following checklist provides some insight on how to stay safe while road tripping with your loved ones:
- Check your tires for wear and tear to make sure they’re capable of handling tough street conditions. Replace them with specialty snow tires if necessary.
- Clear out the exhaust pipe before starting your car.
- Don’t warm up your car in an enclosed area such as a garage, as this could trap carbon monoxide and lead to suffocation and poisoning.
- Don’t drive in low visibility.
- Don’t power up or stop when driving up hills.
- If you see high water or water rising, turn around. Trying to force your way through water increases the risk of getting trapped in your car.
- Keep at least half a tank of gas in your car at all times, whenever possible.
- Don’t use cruise control on icy or snowy streets.
- Add five to six seconds on top of your usual following distance.
- Assemble a cold weather kit, outlined below.
AAA has more great advice regarding winter driving, and we encourage our readers to check it out.
What to Put in a Cold Weather Driving Kit
- Ice scraper
- Extra dry food, water, and blankets (fleece or mylar)
- First aid kit and extra prescription medication
- Driving gloves
- Cell phone charger and spare external battery pack, charged
- Portable weather radio
The American Red Cross recommends placing your cold weather safety kit in the backseat of your car for easier access, particularly in the event your trunk freezes shut.
Should you opt to fly instead of drive to your destination, our blog post Planning a COVID-Safe Holiday Season outlines how to stay safe in airports and on flights.
Giving gifts and watching your loved ones’ eyes light up as they unwrap their surprises is one of the best parts of the Christmas season. The joy only grows when you know they can enjoy their presents safely and without worry! Our checklist offers some tips on what to look for when selecting this year’s round of presents:
- Look up all potential gifts on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s official recall website to make sure they aren’t listed there.
- Similarly, read Consumer Reports and other established, trusted safety watchdog groups for any warnings about presents you’re considering purchasing.
- If you are considering a gift that connects to the internet, check the Mozilla Foundation’s guide to electronics that keep data and identity information private and electronics that don’t.
- If gifting a bicycle, skateboard, or similar transport, include the proper padding and protection (helmets, shin and wrist guards, etc.) as well.
- Avoid giving gifts above a child’s age and development level.
- Discard all packaging after unwrapping to avoid suffocation and swallowing by pets or small children.
- If you have children of varying ages, talk to your older kids about how to properly store and care for their toys to keep their younger siblings safe.
- Don’t buy knockoffs off from third-party sites as these may not have been properly vetted by the CPSC. While cheaper, knockoff toys may contain lead or other health hazards.
- If a gift comes with batteries, make sure to check that they’re secure and not leaking before allowing your child to play with it.
Doing your due diligence before committing to a gift purchase helps ensure that your holidays remain merry and bright.
A little bit of holiday décor can go a long way in adding cheer to your home, especially in 2020 where you may not be enjoying festivities with all of your loved ones nearby. Despite their cheery appearances, however, not all decorations are necessarily safe to keep around the house, especially if you have small children and pets. We hope the following checklist helps you make the healthiest choices when filling your home with holiday spirit:
- As with gifts, check Consumer Product Safety Commission’s official recall website and Consumer Reports for any safety warnings and recalls related to decorations.
- Know what popular holiday plants may be toxic to small children who don’t know not to put the leaves, berries, or flowers in their mouths. The University of Virginia has a list of what to avoid hanging around the home if you have tiny kids and instructions on responding to an incident.
- Know what popular holiday plants, such as mistletoe and holly, are toxic to pets. The University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension has a list of all plants that are and are not of concern.
- Make sure the cords for all holiday lighting aren’t stripped or frayed, and check for any broken bulbs before plugging in a string. Consider LED lights since they do not burn skin when touched.
- All lights should bear the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) safety label. All artificial trees should bear the “flame resistant” label.
- Do not place lights directly on Christmas tree branches and needles, or leave them on while you’re away or asleep to reduce the risk of a fire.
- Keep decorations made of glass, ceramic, or other breakable materials out of the reach of children and pets.
- Do not overload outlets or surge protectors.
- Never place cords underneath rugs or doors to reduce the risk of quick wear and fires.
- Uncoil all extension cords fully to prevent wear. If you plan to use lights outdoors, ground them with UL-approved three-pronged cords.
- Remove all flammables from the proximity of the fireplace before lighting. This includes stockings.
- If displaying a fresh-cut tree, vacuum up needles daily to prevent injuries and reduce the risk of a fire.
- Never leave candles burning unattended, or within the reach of pets and small children.
- Never light candles on a tree to reduce the risk of fires.
For more holiday safety advice, we recommend reading the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Holiday Decoration Safety guide. The happiest holidays are the ones with a reduced need to worry about your loved ones, after all.
Safety Advice from Our Family to Yours
From the Patients ER team to your family, we wish you Merry Christmas and a peaceful holiday season. We hope that the advice we’ve provided here makes it easier for you to keep a safe and healthy home into 2021 and beyond. We want the best for you and yours throughout the year, which is why we’re available to answer any further questions you may have about travel, decorations, gifts, food preparation and more via our website.
In addition, if you or a loved one experiences an emergency during the holidays, our emergency room is located at 10133 Interstate 10 East, Baytown, TX 77521, and you may call us at 281-576-0555. Keep this information handy for quick reference if immediate medical care is necessary.
Best wishes to you and the people you love this holiday season.