The holidays are traditionally a time of celebration and merriment, but stress, poor judgment and all that rushing around can land children and adults in the emergency room.
“This can be a hectic time of year, and it’s not uncommon for people to let their guard down or overlook basic health and safety measures as they travel, entertain and celebrate,” says Emergency Nurses Association President AnnMarie Papa. “We want you to spend the holidays with family and friends, not in the emergency department with us.”
The Emergency Nurses Association has offered the following safety tips to ensure that you and your loved ones have a happy and healthy holiday season:
1. IN THE CAR: If you’re driving to your destination, don’t over-pack the car. Ensure everything is secured in a way that nothing will go flying if you’re in an accident. Young children should be in car seats or boosters appropriate for their age and size; adults should wear seatbelts and speed limit laws should always be followed. Make sure the driver is well-rested and takes adequate driving breaks, especially if driving a long distance. Don’t text and drive, and use hands-free devices to make phone calls. Make sure your car has a basic first aid kit and an emergency kit that includes essentials such as water and flares. “Pay attention to the weather,” Papa says. If the roads are icy, consider leaving later in the day or rescheduling.
2. WHEN VISITING: Medication — whether yours or your guests’ — should be kept in a secure, childproof location. Encourage visitors with medical conditions to provide you with contact information for their doctors and a list of the medications they take. If you feel unprepared to host small children, have their parents walk around the house with you, Papa says. “They know their children best and can identify the dangers you might not have noticed.”
3. EATING AND DRINKING: “Wash your hands, wash your hands and wash them again,” Papa says. Prevent food poisoning by using separate cutting boards, plates and utensils for raw and cooked meat, and be sure to cook meat to the appropriate temperature. Keep leftovers tightly wrapped and properly refrigerated. Don’t place hot food at the ends of tables or on a tablecloth where children could pull these items down onto themselves. Find out ahead of time if any of your guests have allergies or special dietary needs. Monitor your guests’ alcohol consumption and provide non-alcoholic alternatives. Never get behind the wheel of a moving vehicle -– including snowmobiles and four-wheelers -– after having consumed alcohol. Be prepared to call a cab for your guests or have a guest room ready for the night.
4. DECORATIONS: Prevent fires by using only nonflammable decorations. Keep Christmas trees well-watered to prevent them from drying out, and keep all decorations away from candles and other heat sources, including floor vents. If you do use candles, buy them in jars or other containers to avoid open flames. If you have small children or pets that might knock ornaments off your Christmas tree, choose plastic over glass or hang fragile decorations out of their reach. Make sure your outdoor lights are intended to be used outside, and never put strings of lights where people can trip over them. Inspect lighting for shorts and frays before use. Avoid decorations that look like food or candy if there will be small children around.
5. TOYS AND GIFTS: Check the suggested age range on a toy’s package. Toys with small parts are choking hazards for young children. A good rule of thumb is, if it will fit through a toilet paper roll, it is too small to let a child play with. “Holiday cards and toys with button batteries are becoming an increasing problem,” Papa says. “Those batteries are small enough for a child to swallow and they corrode. They can erode through a child’s esophagus and even their stomach, and cause major damage.”
6. STAYING WARM: If you have to use portable heaters make sure they’re in open spaces, away from things that might catch fire. Check the product specifications to make sure they’re intended for indoor use and turn them off when you leave a room or go to bed. Dress appropriately for cold weather in loose-fitting layers. Cover your ears and wear a hat. “You lose most of your heat from your head,” Papa explains.
The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) is the only professional nursing association dedicated to defining the future of emergency nursing and emergency care through advocacy, expertise, innovation, and leadership. Founded in 1970, ENA serves as the voice of more than 37,000 members and their patients through research, publications, professional development, injury prevention, and patient education. For more information, visit ENA’s Web site at www.ena.org.