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Take Holiday Safety in Stride

Last-minute chores can be hazardous if you don't take care

FRIDAY, Dec. 23, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The hectic holiday pace can pose a danger to your bones, joints and muscles.

That's the warning from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

People who are in a rush to finish holiday shopping, put up decorations, or do other holiday-related chores may let their guard down, putting themselves at increased risk of injury.

For example, in 2002 about 5,800 people in the United States were treated in hospital emergency rooms for falls that occurred while decorating for the holiday season, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The AAOS offers the following holiday decorating safety tips:

  • Don't drink and decorate.
  • Use the proper ladder for the job. Step stools and utility ladders are good for working at low and medium heights. Extension ladders are the correct choice for reaching high places outdoors. The weight on the ladder should never exceed its maximum loading capacity.
  • Inspect ladders before you use them. Check for loose screws, hinges or rungs. Clean off any mud or liquids.
  • When working on a ladder, always have proper footwear and make sure the laces are securely tied.
  • When you need a little boost to hang decorations inside, use a step stool instead of furniture such as a kitchen chair or coffee table.
  • If you rearrange your furniture for the holidays, make sure you alert everyone in the house. Serious falls can occur when people trip over furniture that's been moved to a formerly open area.
  • Get help when you need to move heavy or awkward items.
  • Keep clutter to a minimum and keep pathways clear of decorations, gift boxes and other items that could be tripping hazards.

Carting luggage and other heavy items can also pose an injury risk. In 2004, more than 49,100 luggage-related injuries were treated at U.S. hospital emergency rooms, clinics and doctors' offices, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The AAOS offers the following safety advice:

  • Pack light and use luggage with wheels.
  • When you place luggage in an overhead compartment, first lift it onto the top of the seat. Then, with your hands placed on the left and right sides of the luggage, lift it into the compartment. If your luggage has wheels, place the wheel-side into the compartment first. Once the luggage is in the compartment, put it to the back of the compartment. Reverse this process when you remove luggage.
  • Don't rush when you're lifting or carrying a suitcase or heavy package. If you find a piece of luggage or package is too cumbersome, either check it or ask for help. When you're shopping at the mall, minimize heavy loads by making frequent trips to your car to unload items.
  • Always use proper lifting techniques. When lifting, bend at the knees and lift with your leg muscles. Don't lift with your back and waist. Avoid twisting or rotating your spine.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more holiday safety tips.

SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, news release, December 2005
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