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Holiday Safety Check: Fire Hazards, Gifts, Mental Health, and, Yes...COVID-19

Health Hub
Author name: Lee Health

The most wonderful time of the year celebrates the joy of family and friends.

But as love, laughter and light fill our hearts, we’ll need to celebrate a little differently this year to prevent the spread of COVID-19. To create a merry holiday season to help keep your loved ones and communities healthy and safe, check out recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here.

While we encourage you to follow the CDC’s holiday safety tips, remember to pay special attention to your own health and wellness, too. Lee Health wants to see you ring in the New Year in good health and in good spirits.

Mental health: Deck the halls with reds and greens – not the holiday blues

In the midst of creating your holiday season, remember to take care of yourself.

Eating too much, spending too much money, and overextending yourself to friends and family can contribute to the “holiday blues.” According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 64 percent of people with mental illness say the holidays worsen their conditions.

“The stress of standing in long lines, dealing with the crowds, having to travel and see relatives, and buying gifts for everyone can lead many people to experience anxiety and depression around the holiday season,” says Lee Health psychiatrist Daryl Tanski, M.D. “We need to have realistic expectations for the holidays. It won’t be perfect, and don’t push yourself to do more than you can handle.”

  • Get enough sleep: 7-8 hours per night.
  • Plan and stick to a budget.
  • Have realistic expectations.
  • Simplify gift giving.
  • Consume less alcohol and sugar.
  • Start or keep exercising.
  • Avoid “toxic” people and relatives.
  • Do not over commit yourself.

If feelings of anxiety or depression persist or worsen, you should make an appointment with your doctor because you may be experiencing recurrent depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a mood disorder associated with the time of year.

A Happy Home is a Safe Home

While you’re wrapping gifts, trimming the tree, baking cookies, or lighting candles, don’t forget an important holiday task: ensuring your family’s safety.  

It’s easy to overlook safety precautions, says Lindsay Schwandner, M.D., a primary care pediatrician at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. “During the holidays, with so many distractions, sometimes children aren’t as closely supervised. With so many adults in the house, it’s easy to think someone else is watching them.”

Dr. Schwander’s top safety tips to protect your kids and you:

  • Use non-breakable tree ornaments tied with ribbon instead of metal hooks, which are choking hazards for small children.
  • Poinsettia, holly, and mistletoe plants can be toxic. Put plants out of the reach of toddlers.
  • String decorative lights toward the upper reaches of your holiday tree. The bulbs can burn tiny fingers and loose lights pose a choking hazard.
  • Check decorative lights for broken or missing bulbs and frayed wires.
  • For outdoor lighting, choose extension cords rated for outside use.

Fire Awareness

  • Artificial trees should be rated fire-retardant and non-allergenic by a recognized testing facility.
  • Never decorate any type of tree, artificial or real, with candles.
  • Water your live tree every other day to keep it from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
  • Turn off tree lights before leaving your home or going to bed.
  • Consider using electric and battery-operated candles.

Safe Gift-Giving Tips

  • Check the safety label to determine if the gift is age-appropriate for its recipient.
  • Avoid toys with small parts for infants, toddlers, and all children who still chew objects.
  • Even if a small child is considered advanced for his or her age, he or she should not receive a gift meant for an older, more mature child.
  • When opening gifts, collect all packaging pieces to eliminate choking hazards.
  • Never burn colored gift wrap in your fireplace. Some metals found in certain ink pigments can release toxic fumes.

Safety Doesn’t End with the Holiday

You’ve survived another holiday, but before you congratulate yourself with another cup of egg nog, make sure all those empty gift boxes, especially the ones of big-ticket items such as HDTVs, Xboxes, and computer monitors, aren’t piled up in the street.

Everyone will know, including the bad guys, that you have expensive new gifts. Flatten the boxes and fold them smaller so they’ll fit into recycling bins.

More on Mental Health

Read an additional blog story on mental health challenges for this holiday season.