Beware These 16 Holiday Hazards

There are plenty of delightful things to love about the holidays — the people, the parties, the presents! — but there are also a few dangers that can turn a celebration sour in a flash. Keep your wits about you and your limbs intact by avoiding these common holiday hazards.

1. Christmas Tree Mold

If you think Clark Griswold had a problem on his hands with a stowaway squirrel, you haven't yet encountered the dreaded Christmas tree mold. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it's a real threat this time of year that can spark a potentially severe attack in allergy sufferers.

Just how does the mold get in the tree?

"Mold loves moisture, so when you put the water in the tree it's a great place for mold to grow," says allergist Dr. Weilly Soong. "So it releases mold spores and people become allergic." Chemicals sprayed on the tree also can trigger allergy symptoms that often are brushed off as a common cold. To reduce the probability of a reaction to tree mold, spray the tree with water and let it dry outside before bringing it into the house.

Potential Poisons and Other Pet-Related Hazards

It's not only our own backs we have to watch around the holidays; our pets also can fall prey to household hazards that could prove deadly. Trupanion's Holiday Tips for Dogs & Cats puts pet safety first, so you and your furbabies can have all the safe fun that comes with the season.

2. Beware of Poisonous Plants

Holly, mistletoe, and certain lilies look festive but can be dangerous if ingested. Cover the water for the tree and other plants and make sure your pets always have plenty of water. This will keep them from getting thirsty enough to share a drink with plants that could make them sick.

3. Decorating Dos

Keep tinsel, ribbon, and ornaments out of pets' reach, as they often prove too tempting for curious pets to avoid but can result in costly vet visits when chewed or swallowed. Christmas light cords can also be tempting to an avid chewer or new puppy.

4. De-Ice Those Paws

Remove any snow, salt, or de-icing chemicals from pets' paws right away after being outside in the cold. Frostbitten skin, which will appear red or gray, should be warmed with a moist, warm towel until the skin returns to its regular color.

5. Festive Feasts

No matter how much they beg, avoid giving your pets table food — many holiday treats can lead to a stomach ache and a swallowed turkey bone could be life-threatening. Many ingredients commonly used in holiday meals — like chocolate, onions, and garlic — can be toxic for your pets.

6. Injuries While Hanging Lights and Decorations

For the first time ever as an adult I decorated the outside of my home for Christmas. I managed to hang lights from the second story of my house without slamming onto the frozen tundra 20 feet below. I'm pretty proud of myself. And statistically speaking, I should be, because according to the CDC, an estimated 17,465 people are treated for fall-related injuries around the holidays. I'm pleased that I'm not a statistic. You can avoid being one too with this video tutorial from Lowe's featuring helpful light-hanging tips.

7. Frying Frozen Turkeys

The most important rule to remember when deep-frying a turkey for your holiday meal is that it should never be placed in that huge tub of boiling oil while frozen. Unless, of course, you want to spend Christmas in a burn unit followed by a homeless shelter. Let this video from Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services serve as a forewarning to all those who want to tempt fate. Instead, follow these safe and smart tips from The Art of Manliness that take you through the deep-frying process from start to finish in one 15-minute video.

8. Bodily Burns From Cooking and Baking

While turkey frying has the potential to cause major damage if not done properly, it's not as common a hazard as ordinary burns from regular holiday baking and cooking. It's not that difficult to singe a few fingers making that huge holiday meal, especially when all burners and the oven are on at the same time. Also, keep in mind that children like to help out in the kitchen — especially when you're making sweet treats — so it's important to ensure that everybody is educated about fire safety and burn prevention.

9. Damage to Your Teeth

While we're busy trying not to kill our pets or burn the house to the ground, we're overlooking a potentially costly — and painful — oral holiday hazard. "People tend to use their teeth to open presents, bottles, and chew on candy and other potential hazards that lead patients to our office for fixing," says Dr. Mark Helm of Helm, Nejad, Stanley Dentistry of Beverly Hills. So he offers a survival guide of sorts to help you keep your pearly whites firmly planted in your face.

Rinse With Water Immediately After Meals or Sweets

It's recommended to wait 30 minutes after eating or indulging in sweets to brush and floss, allowing your mouth to return to its normal pH balance, but we understand that waiting this long after a meal (especially for little ones) is not always realistic. By simply swishing water in your mouth for about 30 seconds after sweets, you can prevent a significant amount of tartar and plaque from taking hold and help your mouth return to normal pH faster.

Don't Forget to Brush and Floss

During the holiday season we're busy spending time with loved ones and traveling, which can make it very easy to forget to maintain our regular brushing and flossing habits. If you find yourself in a situation where you can't brush and floss, don't panic. Simply rinse with water. This doesn't replace brushing and flossing, but it's better than nothing. It's also wise to invest in a to-go toothbrush or designate a pack of floss for on-the-go activities.

Treat Your Teeth to Something Nice

In keeping with the giving spirit of the holidays, why neglect your teeth? Buy yourself or a loved one a new toothbrush. Treat yourselves to some delicious xylitol-flavored gum or candies. Your teeth have been working hard and they deserve it. While you're at it, visit your hygienist and get a teeth cleaning or ask your dentist about whitening options to make all your friends and family jealous of your sparkling smile.

Use Appropriate Tools

With all of the presents, packages, and bottles to be opened, and nuts to be cracked, it can be tempting to use our teeth to take care of these tasks. Do yourself and your dentist a huge favor by using appropriate tools instead of using your teeth for these tasks. It will save you plenty of pain, money, and time spent at the dentist during the holidays that you can otherwise spend feasting.

Just Say No

Candy canes, caramel, sticky sweets, and other hard candies are some of the most common (and tasty) holiday treats that cause the most damage, and they're best avoided. Do your best to limit your intake of these sweets, and if you do decide to enjoy a candy cane or two don't chew on them.

10. Back Strain From Moving Boxes/Bins In and Out of Storage

Organizing specialist Jamie Novak advises us to avoid back injuries from lugging heavy tubs and containers of decorations in and out of storage areas and up and down flights of stairs. "I suggest storing decorations in smaller tubs, grouping the items you use for one area — like a single bookcase or tabletop — in one bin so you can bring out what you need without hurting yourself," she says. If you're already prone to back problems, ask someone else to do the heavy lifting for you. Doing it yourself isn't worth being laid up for the holidays, unable to enjoy the festivities.

11. Cuts From Clamshell Packaging

One of the most frustrating parts of gift packaging are those annoying hard plastic cases that seem like they've been welded together for the sole purpose of making you curse the day Santa slid down your chimney. And if you're not careful, you could have a bloody mess on your hands. To open these types of packages Novak says, "Always have a clamshell [package] opener at the ready. I keep mine in a decorative box under the tree, so I know just where it is. I also keep one of those tiny screwdrivers in the box so I can open battery compartments easily."

You hear that folks? Put a clamshell package opener on your Christmas list this year — if only to enjoy the look of what-the-heck-is-that bewilderment from whoever reads it.

12. Unattended Candles

Candles help create a cozy ambience around the holidays, but such beauty can quickly turn into a blaze if the candles are left unattended. The National Candle Association (yeah, I had no idea either) takes safety seriously as detailed in this comprehensive list of candle safety rules.

13. Overloading Power Strips and Outlets

Once you've strung up all your lights, you'll need to plug them in so the astronauts can see them from space. That is your goal, isn't it? While it's perfectly okay to pursue that passion, it's not a good idea to overload your electrical outlets so NASA can pinpoint the big ball of fire that has suddenly appeared on your block. Right where your house used to be. Howstuffworks details some electrical-outlet limits in this educational and perhaps life-saving post.

14. Letting the Tree Dry Out

What happens when you put bone-dry greenery next to a potential fire hazard? It could go up in flames. Be a responsible tree owner by keeping the stand filled with water while also minimizing the risk of fire by practicing the safety tips detailed earlier in this post.

15. Choking Hazards for Children

Be mindful of the gifts you're giving children this time of year and make sure that they're age-appropriate. Paramedic Jeff Meyers at Grand Rapids Healthcare Training offers this helpful tip to help you decide what items could mean trouble: "If the object is small enough to fit in a toilet paper roll, it's too small."

16. Foodborne Illness

Dr. Michael Kaplan, national medical director for NextCare, warns about a hidden danger that can affect any family at holiday time.

"Foodborne illnesses — such as Salmonella and E.coli — that primarily consist of vomiting and/or diarrhea can lead to dehydration if a person loses more body fluids and salts (electrolytes) than they take in," he says. "In addition to water, drinking oral rehydration solutions such as Ceralyte, Pedialyte, or Oralyte is recommended to replace the fluid losses and prevent dehydration. Sports drinks such as Gatorade do not replace the losses correctly and should not be used as treatment. Bismuth subsalicylate (i.e. Pepto-Bismol) can reduce the severity and duration of diarrhea, as well. (NextCare can also help to treat gastrointestinal illnesses such as foodborne illness)."

Do you have other holiday hazards that we should avoid? Please warn us about them in comments!

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Help! You’ve got Christmas tree mold, or injured while hanging lights and decorations, or burns from cooking and baking. Avoid these common holiday hazards with our help. We’ve got the tips and ideas to help you get through Christmas safely! | #Christmasfails #holidayhazards #holidayrisks

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