Stay healthy over the holidays

Stay healthy over the holidays

What happened to the holidays being the most wonderful time of the year? Articles warn about increased stress and other hazards. What should we do? Let's start with keeping the children safe. When preparing holiday treats, prevent burns by keeping pot handles turned toward the back of the stove and placing cookie sheets out of reach. Be sure toys for toddlers and infants are bigger than the opening of a toilet paper roll to prevent choking.

The US Consumer Product and Safety Commission reports about 12,000 holiday-related emergency room visits each year for falls, cuts, shocks and burns. According to them, artificial Christmas trees should carry a flame-resistant label. Lights should be inspected for exposed or frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections. Burning candles should remain within vision. Don't overload extension cords and don’t run electrical cords under the carpet.

Styrofoam, tinsel and ornaments can cause choking or intestinal obstruction. And let's not forget chocolate, especially dark, which is highly toxic to pets. At least, if it goes down wrapped in colourful foil, its exit will be quite interesting.

Before braving the malls, make your shopping list with not only names of recipients but actual gift ideas. Since you will know exactly what you are buying you can plan out your route and alleviate aimless wandering. Consider breaking up your lists into small manageable chunks. Make frequent trips to the car to unload packages and store them out of sight in the trunk. This will provide you with fresh air and relieve stress on your back. When going out to the car have keys in hand and be aware of your surroundings.

As for adults, they should be encouraged to exercise moderation in eating and alcohol consumption. Overeating can raise cholesterol and weight, high salt snacks can raise blood pressure and excessive alcohol can cause heart palpitations. Doctors also warn against neglecting the symptoms of a heart attack. They say that people generally wait until the holidays are over. “My message to patients is, don’t ruin your family’s Christmas by ignoring your pain," says Rita Redberg, a cardiologist with University of California, San Francisco.

Then, there is are the ill effects of excessive holiday drinking. People who don’t regularly drink alcohol but binge during Christmas or New Year parties run the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat. This is not necessary a dangerous condition, but can be frightening and turn serious. Dr Redberg adds that she often talks to patients about risks of not taking care of themselves over the holidays. “People should eat healthy and exercise to reduce their cardiac risk, but I know that’s particularly challenging during the holidays," Dr Redberg says. “If they do slack off, I tell them to get right back to it." Get organized during this wonderful time of the year to avoid holiday hazards by using the following tips:

• Note that a potential danger during this season is attributing the warning signs of a heart attack to indigestion.

• Keep live trees watered to avoid fire hazards.

• Be careful when decorating with balloons and confetti for New Year. Both can pose choking hazards or gastrointestinal obstruction to kids and pets.

• Take advantage of not-for-profit groups who provide gift wrapping, card and other holiday items in schools and offices. Not only will you be donating to a worthy cause, you will lessen hand strain and conserve energy.

Erin Allday contributed to this story.

©2007/The New York Times