Some of the most common accidents and Christmas injuries occur every year as a result of many Americans going to great lengths to get into the Christmas spirit. They carry trees into their homes, climb up onto various objects to hang strings of lights, and spend hours carefully wrapping gifts. But, sometimes, the Christmas spirit backfires.
The Shapiro team has talked about accidents that increase during various holidays, Christmas included. But it’s always important to review this topic as more and more people are increasingly interested in ways to combat injuries during the holidays. Consider these scenarios: A man is poked in the eye by a rogue pine needle; a woman falls off of her desk and onto her face while hanging decorations; another woman slices her finger with scissors while wrapping gifts.
If these scenarios sound hypothetical enough, they aren’t. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) documented these very real injuries in the past. The CPSC tracks emergency room visits at about 100 hospitals each year, and that includes the rather unique, somewhat amusing, and solely Christmas-related injuries that have been presented above. And let’s not forget that visits to Santa in the past have resulted in children being injured. That’s right! Apparently, three children had to go to the ER after falling off Santa’s lap in the past. Altogether, research was conducted and concluded that, nationwide, 277 children sustained injuries while visiting Santa Claus; and at least one adult was injured while tripping over a rack as she took her grandchildren to see Santa.
While a Santa-related injury isn’t all that common, around the holiday season, someone will likely sustain an injury by means of stepping on a glass ornament, swallowing an ornament hook, falling off a ladder hanging lights, or throwing out their back “reaching to put the star on a tree,” says one article. In fact, The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 14,126 people visited emergency departments for Christmas decoration-related injuries in 2017. Over the last ten years, from 2008 to 2017, as many as 134,281 people were sent to the E.R. by Christmas decorations.
Common and unique injuries that have been sustained during Christmas
In addition to pine cones, decorations and desks, and scissors, other injuries that tend to increase during the end-of-year season are stocking-related, wrapping/unwrapping presents, tree-related, other, and decoration-related. The top cause of Christmas-related injuries are accidents sustained while putting up and taking down Christmas decorations and unwrapping gifts with knives and scissors are the most common reasons people get injured on Christmas day. Let’s consider more accidents that happen during the end-of-year holiday.
According to this article, more than 148,000 people got decked along with the halls, the researchers estimate. Christmas tree lights reportedly injured hundreds to hundreds of thousands of individuals nationwide. Both electrical and nonelectrical decorations, excluding tree lights, are estimated to have harmed tens of thousands of people. As we review specific Christmas-related injuries that have occurred in the past from this article, hopefully, we’ll be able to gauge what not to do this year as we decorate the home.
Christmas lights – 45 ER visits:
- A four-year-old boy swallows a small tree light (in fact, a lot of kids appear to find Christmas decorations appetizing).
- A 49-year-old woman falls while trying to put up Christmas lights and injured her buttocks.
- A 47-year-old woman suffers an electric shock from Christmas lights.
Christmas trees – 56 ER visits:
- A 28-year-old suffers a corneal abrasion after he was poked in the eye taking down an artificial Christmas tree.
- A 59-year-old woman is bitten by insects in her attic while getting the Christmas tree from its box.
- A 20-year-old woman develops a rash after suffering an allergic reaction to the tree she was putting up.
Other Christmas decorations – 190 ER visits:
- A mom noticed her five-year-old had put a Christmas decoration in their left nostril.
- A four-year-old pulled on a stocking hanging on the mantlepiece and was hit on the head.
- A six-year-old had a Christmas decoration thrown at him by another child and suffered a concussion.
And, of course, there’s the skyrocketing amount of people who step on Christmas decorations and cut their feet.
While most people illuminate their Christmas tree with electric lights, people in some countries, like Switzerland, still prefer to use candles. According to this article, between 1971 and 2012, 28 Swiss people “sustained significant burns from doing this, and four died as a result of their burns.” Although less common than household fires, fires associated with candles and Christmas decorations usually lead to much more severe injuries.
We’re also reminded that Christmas lights aren’t much safer. A study from Canada found that people who injured themselves installing Christmas lights spent an average of 15 days in the hospital and, sadly, five percent of those injured died. Christmas lights are particularly hazardous to children as they are the perfect size for them to eat or inhale (as noted in some of the injured scenarios that we listed above).
Reasons that injuries increase during Christmastime, and tips and advice to help prevent some of the most common Christmas injuries
There are several elements that combine to create extra risk at Christmas, including winter weather, stress and rushing about, and, in particular, excess alcohol as we mark the festive season at office parties and other celebrations.
This article highlights a study of two-thousand people that shows 27 percent feel more stressed than usual during the festive period, rising to nearly a third (32 percent) among women. Why? Well, it appears that the pressure to cook and host are two of the biggest stress factors, with more than 1 in 10 women (13 percent) and 6 percent of men feeling the pressure when cooking. Additionally, almost 1 in 5 people (18 percent) find a busy home overwhelming and a quarter admit their home is messier than usual.
Amidst this panic and bustle, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men (12 percent) say they are more likely to do things in a rush. As mentioned earlier, during this busy time of year, the Festive Fear, and rushing, can lead to mistakes and accidents happening.
- Check your fairy lights and any other electrically powered Christmas decorations over before putting them up. If cables are frayed or fittings damaged in any way, dispose of them.
- Switch all lights and electrical decorations off at night and when you go out.
- Always unplug lights before watering the Christmas tree
- Check that any lights being used outside are safe and designed for external use – and keep plugs and transformers indoors
- Don’t overload electrical sockets. At this time of year it can be tempting to plug extension cables into each other, but this can lead to overheating and electrical fires
- Keep Christmas cards and decorations away from lights, heaters and fires
- If you’re planning to have a real fire, make sure chimneys have been swept – debris such as bird’s nests can cause chimney fires
- Don’t leave candles unattended, and make sure you put them out before you go to bed. Tea lights need to be in suitable containers, as otherwise they can melt through or set fire to whatever’s underneath
- Make sure overnight guests know how to switch off fires and heaters and show them how to get out of the house if there’s an emergency in the night
The fireside is blazing bright, we’re caroling through the night, and this Christmas will be a very safe Christmas for everyone…
If there’s any lesson to be learned here, it’s that regardless of whether you’ve been naughty or nice, Christmas could be equally dangerous as it is joyful. Some people can’t seem to avoid Christmas-related injuries — from hanging lights and defective decorations to cuts from wrapping gifts and falls from ladders. Who knew Christmas could be so painful? Thankfully, though, we’ve reviewed how risks can also be mitigated. Being that Christmas is considered “the most wonderful time of the year,” by the masses, it doesn’t have to be a time when the fun is replaced with anxiety over potential accidents.
While lights, ornaments, and Christmas trees may land some individuals in the emergency room, we must remember that the holidays are a time for celebration and we want it to remain as such. We still want to focus on the real situation at hand: Christmas, like many holidays, is a time when we get to sit down with loved ones and relax around a warm fire, eat home-cooked meals, exchange gifts, and await the forthcoming New Year. Being aware of what dangers exist in advance can let you be prepared and take appropriate action to avoid such dangers so you can have a seamless holiday experience.
So, this Christmas, as you prepare for the festive period, remember that the potential for accidents is all around, so take your time putting things up and don’t overdo it. Hang your lights lower; buy a tree that actually fits in the front door; keep small ornaments out of reach of small children; keep scissors out of unwrapping; and when you’re doing your Christmas-morning dance, watch out for rolled ankles. You don’t want to end up like the Christmas turkey: burned, sliced, dislocated, and with a foreign object inside you!
The following articles provide more statistics on Christmas-related injuries:
Get more information on holiday-related injuries: