America’s Most Common Christmas Injuries and How to Prevent Them

There is no doubt that Christmas provides one of the greatest seasons of the year for the many millions who celebrate the beloved holiday. Every year Americans go to great lengths to get into the spirit of Christmas by stringing lights, putting up a tree and spending countless hours choosing and wrapping presents.

Achieving the truly American style Christmas spirit does not come without its costs however. Annually, thousands of Americans are severely injured in pursuit of acquiring the most wonderful time of the year. Kids cutting off fingers, moms severely burning themselves, dads falling off of ladders and families completely setting their homes ablaze are all actual occurrences that have taken place in the days of Christmas past. The dangers of Christmas bliss are very real and can occur to anyone and in fact occur to many people. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) tracks emergency room visits and the amount of injuries that occur during the holiday season. While tracking approximately 100 hospitals, the CPSC found that between the years of 2011 and 2015 there were more than 1,700 documented Christmas related injuries. As large as these numbers are, they are only representative of 100 hospitals and don’t even account for the injured parties that didn’t visit the hospital or the property damage that occurred due to the holiday season.

You may not realize it, but practically all of our long held Christmas traditions can be very dangerous and have the true possibility of ending in a severe injury. In order to ensure that you make it through this Christmas and New Years unscathed we have compiled a list of the most common Christmas injuries and how to avoid them. Even if you are Ebenezer Scrooge, you can benefit from many of these tips on avoiding Christmas injuries.

Hanging or Removing Lights

Hopefully you are not already reading this blog in a sling because the time to hang up Christmas lights has long since past. However, these tips also apply to removing Christmas lights, regardless of whether or not you plan on waiting until February to do so. Did you know that approximately 5,800 people injure themselves each year as a result of falls associated with hanging outside Christmas decorations and lights.

Over 50% of the 5,800 falls or injuries were caused when someone actually fell off of the ladder or the roof while hanging lights, which brings up another issue in itself. About 33 percent of all holiday related injuries occur when someone falls off of a ladder or the roof. According to the CPSC, the falls occur predominantly among men between the ages of 60 and 85. Regardless of the age of whoever is putting up or taking down Christmas lights, it is important to take extra precautions such as:

  • Use a reliable ladder if you need to use a ladder this Christmas season. It is preferable to not use a ladder at all, but if the need for that outdoor Christmas spirit is too strong then be sure to use a reliable and safe ladder. In addition, do not use a ladder without someone to secure the base. In other words, never attempt to put up Christmas lights alone.
  • Use UL approved extension cords that are outdoor grade and be sure to follow all guidelines provided with the product. Using indoor lights can and almost always will result in injury or outages.
  • Secure lights safely using plastic clips, plastic hooks or zip ties. Never attempt to leave lights stranded on the house without any security.
  • Replace burnt bulbs with the appropriate wattage replacements when they go out. Burnt bulbs may not seem like a big deal but can actually lead to various fire hazards.

Christmas Tree Fires

During most years, the time between the months of November and February are when most house fires are recorded. No doubt a great deal of the house fires that aren’t a result of frying a turkey are often caused by Christmas related activities. Generally, the top cause of Christmas related fires doesn’t actually originate from the kitchen. Coincidentally, many of the house fires are actually a result of a poor mixture of candles and Christmas tree decorations.

christmas-tree-fireChristmas trees are known for burning quickly and fiercely once they ignite. Many times the burn is short lived, however they burn with intensity and can ignite the home leaving thousands of dollars of damage in their wake. Very frequently in severe cases of a Christmas tree fire, loss of life and significant property damage are the end result.

Christmas tree fires are a much more common and devastating occurrence than most people realize. Fires that occurred as a result of Christmas Trees have resulted in over 250 home fires, 24 injuries, 12 deaths and 16 million dollars in property damage in just one year. As a Southern Californian, you may even remember the 96 foot and 120,000 dollar tree that went up in flames at the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa just last year. There is no doubt that various necessary precautions should be taken in order to avoid the loss of life and property that Christmas tree fires have a knack for taking. Some of the various precautions that should be taken include:

  • Keep your tree hydrated by ensuring to water it daily and keeping it from drying out. It goes without saying that the dryer a tree, the more at risk it is for catching fire.
  • Use UL approved lights that have been approved for indoor use as tree decorations. UL approved lights are only approved after undergoing stringent test measures.
  • Throw away damaged light strands because they themselves are a very significant fire hazard.
  • Use GFCI outlets for your lights to ensure safety when they remain plugged in. Unplug the lights overnight.
  • Keep animals away from the tree because most animals, especially cats, like to chew on the wires which often results in a significant fire hazard.

Back Injuries Caused By Lifting

One of the most common Christmas related injuries is in fact back injuries. Christmas trees account for more than 1000 injuries every year and a significant proportion of those are caused by poorly lifting the tree. While we all love to have a Christmas tree in our living room, the CPSC suggests that improperly lifting the tree can lead to severe injuries. Trees, despite their fluffy and light appearance, can in fact be much larger and heavier than they seem.

In addition to poorly lifting the tree, frequently climbing ladders and lifting various heavy objects, as is common with Christmas decorating and un-decorating, can lead to severe back injuries. The resulting pain can be acute and short lived, but often times can become chronic and a terrible pain to deal with. The best way to avoid back problems because of Christmas is to take the following precautions:

  • Have a lifting partner to ensure that the significant weight of the tree and other heavy objects is properly and evenly distributed between multiple people.
  • Lift using your legs to ensure that the strain is taken off of your back in order to prevent possible major chronic back injuries.

Christmas is meant to be a joyous and wonderful time, but can be quickly ruined by an injury. By taking extra preventive measures to ensure that you enjoy the holidays safely, you can prevent injuries, property damage and even death. So before plugging in those lights, hoisting the tree or removing decorations, be sure to follow the steps and tips provided.

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