During the Christmas season, some of our cherished traditions can be the source of accidents. Wintry weather also contributes to injuries. Here’s how to safely enjoy your holiday customs and celebrations.

1. Lifting and Carrying Injuries

Your back is vulnerable to injury when handling heavy items, such as a Christmas tree, boxes of decorations, and presents. Improper lifting technique can damage your spinal discs, ligaments, and muscles. Poor body mechanics can likewise strain your shoulders and wrists.

Optimal Posture

To safely lift a weighty object, keep your spine vertical while flexing your knees and hips. Squat rather than bending from your waist. When carrying an item, hold it close to your body, and avoid leaning backward or sideways.

For hefty items that are also bulky, awkward, broad, or long, request the help of a strong person. Additionally, heed warning signs by your body of impending strain. Red flags are twinges, stinging, and pulling sensations. When detecting stressful force, adjust your stance to a more comfortable position.

During Christmas shopping, avoid overloading bags since the weight can harm your wrists, shoulders, and back. When approaching the limit of what you can easily carry, make a trip to your car, and place the bags in your trunk. Then, resume shopping.

Supportive Apparel

If you plan to spend several hours moving cumbersome objects, first put on a back brace. It will support your spine and abdomen, stabilize your posture, and prevent strain. A back brace also protects your core during sit-to-stand and other transitional movements.

You’ll find braces at pharmacies and hardware stores, available in many different designs. Choose an “industrial work back brace” or “lifting back brace,” with lumbar support and straps that cross at the back.

2. Ladder Falls

If you use a ladder to hang Christmas lights and decorations, you’re at risk for a fall injury. In addition to bruises, bumps, and lacerations, impact with the ground often causes fractures, concussion, spinal cord injury, brain trauma, and internal bleeding. At worst, a ladder fall can be fatal.

Proper Equipment

To string outdoor lights, use a fiberglass or wooden ladder, rather than aluminum, protecting against an electrical injury. Make sure the ladder extends adequately, to the proper height. Otherwise, overstretching can throw off your balance.

Refer to the label on your ladder for the “highest safe standing level” and the “duty rating,” how much weight it can support. Along with holding you, remember that the ladder must bear the weight of decorations and tools.
Before ascending, inspect a ladder to verify that it’s sound. Discard one that leans, sways, sags, or has missing or loose parts. For maximal traction, wear slip-resistant shoes with clean soles, and make sure ladder rungs are dry.


When setting up a ladder, make sure it rests on a firm and dry surface. It may help to place a board beneath the ladder feet.

Here’s a positioning guideline, the “4-to-1 rule.” for every 4 feet you must climb, move the base 1 foot away from the supporting wall. If you’re placing a straight ladder against a roof or platform, make sure it extends 3 feet above the edge. With a step ladder, check that the crossbars are fully extended.


While ascending, employ the “three points of contact climb,” using a combination of your hands and feet. This strategy reduces the chance of slipping. Face the ladder, keeping your stomach centered between the side rails. Also, ask someone to hold it steady. Never step higher than the third rung from the top.

Climbing with tools in your hands is hazardous. Instead, tuck equipment in a tool belt.

3. Burn and Fire Injuries

During the Christmas season, there’s a greater incidence of burns from unattended candles, live trees, decorative lights, and hot food. To escape house fires, people often suffer impact injuries while jumping from heights. Smoke inhalation causes airway burns, lung damage, carbon monoxide poisoning, and even death. Here’s how to avoid various heat-related injuries.


Wax candles are best used as decorations, unlit. To duplicate the cozy ambiance of candlelight, buy electric and battery-operated candles. You can find them in a range of styles that emit fragrance, including pillars, tea lights, tapers, and votives.

Christmas Trees

When shopping for a live tree, choose one that’s freshly cut, with needles that are pliable, green, and firmly attached to branches. To evaluate freshness, do the “tap test.” Hold the tree by its trunk, and tap the base on the ground. If the tree sheds massively, it’s been sitting on the lot too long.

Situate your tree a safe distance from heat sources, such as baseboards, radiators, space heaters, and a working fireplace. To prolong freshness, refill the water reservoir daily. If you have pets, keep them away from the tree since chewed wires increase the risk of fire.
Dead leaves are highly flammable. Once needles start rapidly browning and falling off, dispose of your tree. The general time frame for safe display is two weeks. When a tree is obviously deteriorating, put it outdoors for recycling or bring it to your local recycling center.


Make sure tree lights are UL listed, ensuring they meet safety standards. LED types are preferable to incandescent lights since they’re more energy efficient, cooler, and last longer. If you don’t use LED lights, check the bulb temperature daily. Remove lights that are warm or hot to the touch.

Before stringing lights, examine them for cracked bulbs, frayed or bare wires, and loose connections. Discard any sets with these defects, and don’t exceed three light strings per extension cord. Also, insert plugs into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) safety outlet.
For a planted tree on your property, use bulbs specifically designed to endure the elements, labeled “outdoor.” Before leaving home or going to bed, turn off all Christmas lights. Given the fire risk of live trees, consider displaying an artificial tree, one labeled non-flammable and flame-retardant.

Food-Related Burns

Distraction is a primary cause of burns incurred while preparing, serving, and eating food. Multitasking and rushing scatter your attention. Specifically, burns often result from stove and oven spills, sipping hot cocoa and cider, splattering hot oil, and touching hot crock pots and cookie trays.

If you’re the holiday cook, baker, or server, protect your skin when handling hot items with kitchen mitts and potholders. Don’t leave the stove or microwave unattended while in use. To avoid knocking pots off the stove, turn their handles toward the middle of the range top. To put out a grease fire, first turn off the heat source. If the fire occurs in a pot or pan, snuff it out by covering with a lid. If you can’t contain the flames, use a fire extinguisher.

Before guests begin eating your delicious food, warn them of hot dishes. This precaution will hopefully prevent burned mouths, throats, fingers, arms, and laps.
At the start of the holiday season, insert fresh batteries in fire alarms, and test them. Keep one fire extinguisher each in your kitchen, dining room, and living room, rated Class ABC, for multipurpose use. Make sure your family knows the plan of action during a fire, including operating fire extinguishers and following an established escape route.

4. Choking and Poisoning

If there are children and pets in the home, avoid hanging ornaments and trim that look edible, posing a choking risk. Keep items small enough to be ingested beyond reach.

Poisonous plants are also hazardous. Common holiday sources of toxicity are amaryllis, cyclamen, Christmas cactus, English holly, Jerusalem cherry, mistletoe, poinsettia, and English ivy. Likewise risky are fallen berries and leaves. Swallowing even a small portion of these plants can produce diarrhea, vomiting, mouth irritation, drooling, and rashes.

If you display a live tree, keep the water reservoir covered. Standing water allows germs to breed, such as fungi and bacteria. Tree preservative is also toxic. If your pet drinks this water, they’ll become extremely ill.

Slipping on Ice and Snow

If possible, before a snowfall, spread ice melt products on walkways and driveways. Stock several large bags of ice melt, such as rock salt, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, and calcium magnesium acetate. For added traction, mix cat litter or sand with the ice melt.

Spread granules in a thin layer over walk surfaces. If snow has already fallen, clear away what you can before applying deicer.

Before going outdoors, put on shoes or boots with soles of rubber or neoprene composite. Leather and plastic soles don’t offer traction. Walk slowly, shuffling or taking short steps, with the ground in sight. Bend forward slightly, and keep your feet flat.
In areas where ice has melted, watch out for black ice, a thin, transparent glaze. If an icy surface borders grass, walk on it instead.

Try to avoid carrying objects in your hands. Instead, loop bag handles over your arms or across your body. Another option is a backpack. Should you start slipping, having your arms free will help you regain balance. On curbs, step directly downward with your feet flat, rather than angling your heels.

Medical Care

Should an accident arise that’s not life-threatening, consider going to an urgent care center like Memorial Hospital of Converse County. At a hospital emergency room (ER), you can end up waiting several hours to be treated. Conversely, the wait time at a UCC is usually 30 minutes or less.

While you might feel more secure seeing your doctor, on short notice, you may not be able to get an appointment. At a UCC, you don’t need advance scheduling, and the open hours are convenient, including evenings and weekends. Patients are seen in their order of arrival.

Unlike ER billing, you won’t be charged separate fees per doctor and procedure. Instead, you’ll receive a single invoice, sparing you future surprises and ongoing notices. Your cost of care will likely be less than an ER visit. If you have healthcare insurance, call in advance to make sure the UCC accepts it.

However, go to an ER for a head injury, severe fracture, chest pain, difficulty breathing, copious bleeding, or any serious trauma. If you’re unsure which facility is best, call in advance of traveling.

Safe Celebrations

Hopefully, learning about common holiday accidents hasn’t dampened your spirits. By taking the above precautions, you can avoid injuries related to improper lifting and carrying, ladder use, exposure to heat and fire, choking, poisoning, and slipping on ice and snow.

May your holiday season be happy and safe!

Author's Bio: 

Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger for business, home, and family niches. Dixie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband.