520 North Third Ave Sandpoint, ID 83864

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Let’s Be Safe Out There This Holiday Season


By Kathy Hubbard


Today we’re giving a shout out to the nurses, lab techs, emergency department administration, maintenance, food service, housekeeping personnel and physicians who are working the holidays this year.

And let’s not forget those who staff our local EMS and fire departments plus our police officers and sheriff deputies who will be on hand in case of emergency.

Each year almost 9,000 people are treated in emergency rooms on Christmas day for burns, bruises, lacerations and broken bones due to carelessness. Many are treated for stomach disorders. Children are treated for suffocation. And an inordinate number of adults are seen for heart attacks.

Let’s all follow some simple safety rules to ensure we aren’t a medical statistic this holiday season.

Right now is a good time to add water to that live Christmas tree. It’s probably a little thirsty and dead pine needles can cause a fire hazard. If the tree isn’t drinking, cut off a few inches of the bottom to make sure it does.

Secure the tree in its stand to ensure that it won’t easily fall over with a tug by a pet, toddler or tipsy party-goer. And keep it at least three feet away from all heat sources.

Even an artificial tree is inflammable, so check to make sure that there aren’t any candles near the tree or any other decoration that might catch fire. Be sure candles are totally extinguished before leaving the room. Keeping a fire extinguisher nearby is a good idea, too.

Be careful with broken ornaments. Dispose of them properly even if they’re priceless souvenirs, a nasty cut isn’t worth the sentiment.

If anyone in your family has respiratory issues refrain from lighting a wood burning fire. Fires release airborne toxic particulates that have been associated with an increase in blood pressure and cardiac events.

If you light a fire, be sure the flue is open. Remove any greens, boughs or paper decorations before lighting and don’t leave a fire unattended.

Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. It can cause a flash fire. And be extremely careful with those pretty fire salts as they not only produce colored flame but can also cause extreme gastrointestinal problems if ingested.

Be vigilant with children’s toys. Know at all times what your child is playing with or on. Make sure the toys meant for older children aren’t in the hands of the toddlers.

Avoid twists and sprains by making sure presents are picked up, no cords are crossing the room (no, do not put them under the rug that’s a fire hazard) and if playing with sports equipment get proper instruction, proper equipment and proper supervision.

Make sure the house you are in is childproof. Be aware of potential choking items like small ornaments, balloons or hard candies and nuts. Make sure the kids don’t come in contact with tobacco or alcohol.

Use caution with food. Foods that are normally refrigerated should not be sitting out for more than two hours. Make sure all raw fruits and vegetables are washed thoroughly. Wash your hands and prep surfaces frequently.

Check all your medications for food interactions. Some drugs are affected by certain foods. For instance, if you take Coumadin you probably know to be careful with dark leafy vegetables, but did you know to avoid cranberries and herbal teas?

Try to avoid stressful situations. Emotional stress can lead to heart attacks. Blame me if you want to stay away from your in-laws!

Keep warm. Dress in layers and be sure to bundle up before going outside. Make sure your children do as well. Then when indoors peel it off so you don’t get overheated.

Don’t binge eat or drink. Taste everything, but reduce your portions accordingly. Often a great case of indigestion will resemble a heart attack but remember that a heart attack often resembles indigestion.

And, most importantly, get help immediately for any symptoms or injuries. Don’t worry about ruining someone else’s festivities with a trip to the ER. Putting off that visit can result in a multitude of complications including whether or not you’ll be around for a Merry Christmas next year.


Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.


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