4 Essential Holiday Safety Tips

Keep your winter holiday healthy and safe with a few simple moves.

Shopping mall blur background with bokeh

Updated on November 28, 2023.

Airports and shopping centers aren't the only places that tend to fill up around the holidays.

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported 14,800 decorating-related injuries that required treatment in emergency departments (EDs) during the 2022 holiday season. Combine that with the increased incidence of heart attacks around the winter holidays, and it makes sense that EDs are very busy places toward the end of the year.

Here are some of the top holiday health hazards—and ways to avoid them to make sure your holidays are uneventful (in a good way).

Keep your heart happy

Healthcare providers (HCPs) speculate that delaying care “because it’s a holiday” may be one of the reasons we see more deadly heart attacks this time of year. If you have a heart condition, be mindful of worrying symptoms any time of the year, and do the following to minimize any risks:

  • Take it easy. The fact is, people can get stressed out around the holidays. A little stress is inevitable, but as much as possible, try to think of the end of the year as a time to relax. Set expectations at a reasonable level, try to keep your to-do list short, and leave the snow shoveling to the kids.
  • Don’t stray from your diet. HCPs believe that the added salt and fat in many holiday dishes may put exessive pressure on hearts already susceptible to heart disease.
  • Dress warmly. Cold weather is hard on your heart, causing blood vessels to constrict and raising blood pressure. Wear a well-insulated jacket, hat, and gloves whenever you can.
  • Feeling chest pain, shortness of breath, or any other abnormal symptom? It doesn’t matter what day it is. If you feel the symptoms of a heart attack, don’t delay care and call 911 right away.

Stay well-grounded

Nearly half of decorating-related injuries are the result of falls, according to the CPSC. You might be tempted to deck your roof with the kind of synchronized lights you see on YouTube, but unless you're a professional, it's best to stay on firm ground. 

If you insist on heading up a ladder, follow these precautions:

  • Make sure the ladder extends three feet over the roofline to minimize risk of sliding.
  • Place it on level ground. Have someone hold the bottom steady.
  • Stay off the top step.
  • Don’t prop the ladder near any doors that can be opened.

Pack smart when you're on the road

When you go on a trip—even if it’s only for a night or two—make sure to take your prescription medications. People often leave their medications at home around the holidays, only to discover that their return flight is delayed. The result can be that blood pressure, blood sugar, or other conditions become exacerbated after missing several doses.

When you pack, take the whole bottle with you. That way you won’t run out. What's more, if you have the original bottle, there’s no confusion about the type of medication or dosage you need to take, in case you need to have that information handy.

Be smart with trees

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), when Christmas tree fires occur, they are likely to be serious and three times more likely to be associated with injury or death. 

If you have a natural tree indoors, follow these safety tips:

  • Keep it well-watered. A dry tree versus a hydrated one may be the difference between a minor event and a dangerous fire.
  • Give it space. Keep the tree at least three feet away from fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, candles, or heat vents. 
  • Check your cords. Discard any holiday lights with frayed wired or bare spots.
  • Go easy on lights. Don’t connect more than three strands of mini lights. 

It goes without saying that you should keep the tree—and pretty much everything else—away from candles. A safer bet is using battery-powered LED candles and let them twinkle away all night, worry-free.

Article sources open article sources

United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Making a List, Checking it Twice: Tips for Celebrating Safely this Holiday Season: New CPSC data highlights holiday-related risks, including unsafe toys, decorations and cooking fires. November 18, 2021.
United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Make it a 'Home Safe Home' for the Holidays. November 14, 2023.

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