holiday accidents, preventing holiday accidents, holiday illness

Prevent Accidents in Your Home This Holiday Season

December 04, 2008 10:56 AM
by Isabel Cowles
Holiday food preparation and decorations can leave animals and people susceptible to accidents; avoid the emergency room by taking some simple precautions.

Protecting Pets

Holiday festivities and decorations are often responsible for an increase in accidents and injuries—for pets and people alike.

Animals are especially susceptible to changes in environment and diet: decorations, holiday dishes and desserts are often ingested by unwitting pets. Dr. Cynthia Gaskill, associate professor and veterinary clinical toxicologist at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, told CNN, “Dogs and cats do not know what is bad for them. If there is medicine on the bathroom counter or food left on the table, that is irresistible to them."

CNN reports that typical holiday items can create a toxic environment for pets. Foodstuffs like garlic, onions, raisins, grapes, chocolate and macadamia nuts can prove fatal, while over-the-counter prescription drugs can also kill a pet if ingested.

Dr. Robin Van Metre, a veterinarian at Fort Collins Veterinary Emergency Hospital in Colorado, told CNN, “Dogs will eat almost anything and there is no such thing as a dog-proof cap."

The New York Veterinarian Clinic also cautions that certain decorations can be risky for animals, noting that many pets are inclined to chew and that electrical cords left within reach can easily shock a pet. The clinic notes that holiday ornaments and decorations pose a choking or cutting hazard to curious companions.

Protecting People

Some additional precautions should be taken at the holidays to protect people as well. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), more than 1,650 people fall victim each year to fire-related injuries, which cause more than $990 million in damage.

The USFA notes that many fire-related accidents are caused by dry Christmas trees and holiday lights. The organization offers tips for proper tree care and disposal, as well as information on how to safely string electrical cords.

Another serious holiday risk is accidental poisoning: according to a recent report by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, even childproof packages cannot prevent children from ingesting toxic substances.

Jude McNally, director of the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy’s Poison and Drug Information Center, told the University of Arizona News that the holidays can leave children especially prone to accidental poisoning. “With family and friends visiting for celebrations, routines are disrupted and visitors may not be thoughtful about where they leave their over-the-counter and prescription medications,” McNally explained. “Parents need to pay extra attention to make sure drugs are stored safely and youngsters don’t accidentally sample them.”

Regular food can also be problematic if prepared without the necessary precautions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers some advice on how to protect against food poisoning, which is especially important if there are numerous cooks in the kitchen or lots of leftovers to be handled.

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