The weather is turning colder, and the holiday season is heating up. Unfortunately, even innocent activities this time of year – like cooking, decorating and excessive shopping – can lead to injuries, elevated stress and other cheer-zapping health problems. We asked doctors around the country about the top holiday health risks and how to avoid them.
Family gatherings, gift giving, a tight budget and a packed calendar are all part of the season, but they can lead to stress. Add in heightened tension with family and friends – or conversely, loneliness, which can feel worse this time of year – and you have a recipe for anxiety and depression. The best remedy? Stay active and squeeze in some me-time. Katie Lyke, Emergency Department Manager at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center has some advice to avoid holiday burnout: “Make sure to set aside some time to take care of yourself—whether it’s a walk in the neighborhood, a quick nap, or just a moment alone, a little self-care can go a long way during this busy time of year!”
Spikes in chronic disease
If you’re living with high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes or other chronic health issues, your symptoms may increase around the holidays. Most people aren’t exercising, and they’re more relaxed about their diets, which can spell trouble if you have diabetes or kidney disease. Stick to your exercise and eating routines as best you can, and if you do get out of sync, try to get back on track quickly.
Christmas trees, candles and a cozy fire may add to the holiday glow, but they pose real dangers. If you have a live tree, water it regularly and dispose of it properly. Holiday lights can wear and fray, so replace them each year as needed. Above all, use common sense. Make sure smoke detectors work properly, keep candles out of reach from kids and pets and use space heaters with caution.
Backyard football is fun, but too many holiday drinks and an uneven playing field could lead to someone on the sidelines with a sprained ankle – or worse. In fact, fractures, tears, sprains and concussions are all too common this time of year.
Scalds and burns
Keep young children out of the kitchen and supervise older kids. Additional tips include: Always test a dish’s temperature before serving, don’t place hot pots to cool within a child’s reach and avoid using tablecloths, as kids can pull them off and send hot dishes flying. Consider setting up a cooking station so kids can help with safe tasks like mixing and measuring.
It’s not just inclement weather that heightens the risk for trouble on the road. All the partying this time of year leads to an increase in car accidents caused by drunk driving. “One of the worst things we see in the ER is trauma related to drunk driving around the holidays,” says Lyke. Have fun celebrating, but be safe and always have a designated driver or arrange for a cab or car service.
Too much alcohol
Drunk driving isn’t the only thing you have to worry about with alcohol. Too much drinking can sometimes lead to fatal consequences. “Excessive alcohol consumption can pose serious health risks,” Lyke says. “If you plan to partake in the holiday cocktails, try to eat a balanced meal and alternate each alcoholic beverage with a water, juice or club soda. And ALWAYS make sure you have a safe ride home!”