8 ways to avoid common holiday disasters - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

8 ways to avoid common holiday disasters

Updated: Nov 29, 2011 09:36 AM EST
If you're hanging holiday lights this year, ask someone to help you. (©Fuse/Thinkstock) If you're hanging holiday lights this year, ask someone to help you. (©Fuse/Thinkstock)


By Emelie Battaglia

Charles Dickens spoke about the holidays best: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Even though the house looks amazing and the food is delicious, there are a lot of holiday disasters just waiting to happen, so much so that it's a wonder how any of us get through the season alive. With a few quick tips, though, you'll be ready to go in no time. As a bonus, your emergency room fees will be kept to a minimum.

General Safety

Don't get so high-strung.

More than half a million people are injured every year as a result of falling off a ladder. If you're hanging holiday lights this year, then ask someone to help you. Not only will you be safer, but the project will also go faster. A pair of helping hands goes a long way to ensure safety and handle excess lights while you climb and reach. Generally, don't step on the top two levels of your ladder, as most instruct you to avoid, anyway. These are the least supported by the weight of the legs, and excess strain on them can topple the ladder.

Fire your fireplace from cleanup crew.

While it may seem harmless enough to just toss wrapping paper and excess ribbon in the fireplace, it actually poses a huge risk for flash fire. To clean up after opening gifts, always have a trash bag or large box handy, where you can store the wrapping paper, bows, ribbons and packing materials until they can be taken out to the garbage bins. If you're looking for a quick and easy way to light up the fireplace, then use split hardwood, which is the best to burn, and always make sure the chimney is swept and the fireplace maintained before starting the fire.

Sand your surfaces.

In cold, wintry weather, the ice and snow buildup on your walkway is imminent. You can't avoid it any better than you can avoid lint in your pockets. Even if you scrape the thing down with a shovel, you'll still have chunks of slick safety hazard in front of your house. A convenient trick to avoid falling is to scatter sand or kitty litter onto slippery steps. It adds texture and resistance to the ground, making your guests less susceptible to a cold rough-and-tumble match with your front porch.

Child Safety

Keep the booze at bay.

You don't have to banish alcohol from events, but you should be wary of carrying too much or leaving it out in the open for kids to reach. Chances are that if you're hosting a holiday party, then either you or your guests will tag their kids along. Kids love to imitate adults, and they're quite curious; as a result, alcohol poisoning in children is not uncommon during the holiday season. Adults are likely to leave half-empty drink glasses lying around, and kids are there for the taking. Be sure to either warn guests to leave their kids at home with a babysitter or strongly enforce after-drinking cleanup.

Mind your meds.

Even if you have an excellent storage system for your medication, guests may not. Grandparents especially are likely to travel with medication and commonly leave their prescriptions on guest nightstands, coffee tables or bathroom vanities, all of which are within reach of children. Designate a secure tray or area on a high dresser for guest to store their meds. Provide guests a special place to store their pocketbooks and bags, too, which regularly house pills and other medications. Children are adventurers and love to rummage, to be sure to mind what they have access to this year.

Opt out of edible ornaments.

When decorating your tree, realize that kids don't always do what they're told. If you tell them not to touch the tree ornaments, you've probably ensured that they will. For this reason, you should avoid putting candy, real or fake, on the tree. Even popcorn. They lure kids to tug on the tree and risk toppling. In addition, they pose choking hazards if they children try to take a bite. Leave the candy canes to your countertops and save yourself the hassle of tree cleanup and emergency room visits.

Pet Safety

Store your doggone chocolate.

Baking is a lot of fun, and you're sure to do some this season. Chocolate is one of the most common ingredients in sweet treats, and for good reason (It's delicious!). But chocolate contains theobromine, a compound that is toxic to dogs but not to humans. For this reason, you should store your chocolate, even milk chocolate bars, in a high cabinet or some other place where the dog can't easily get to it. Theobromine induces diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, coma and even death in dogs, and baking chocolate, which has a higher concentration of cocoa, is most threatening. Those brownies won't taste nearly as good at the veterinarian's office.

Leave leftovers to the adults.

Indoor animals are notorious for begging around the dinner table. Holiday feasts aren't any different, but they do have a lot more leftovers. Dog diets vary by owner, so be sure to inform your guests ahead of time what they may or may not feed to your pets. It's generally better not to give animals the taste for human food. Safety wise, leftovers pose even further risks. Common dog treats like chicken and turkey have bones that dogs can easily chew through, forming shards that can pose a choking hazard. Be sure to take your trash out regularly, too, because coffee grinds have can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and even death, and grapes and raisins cause kidney failure. These are just a few of the examples, so take the extra time to keep your pet safe and healthy.

There's more at risk this winter season than your sanity. Keep in mind the safety of yourself and of those around you. That is something that certainly everyone can be grateful for. 

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