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Avoid the dangers of preparing for the holidays
A man climbs a high ladder to decorate a Christmas tree

Avoid the dangers of preparing for the holidays

By Alan Jenkins on November 25, 2020

A lot of hard work goes into making the holiday season merry and bright.

And while holidays are a time for celebrating, they can also be a time for broken wrists, hips and shoulders as a result of falls, according to orthopaedic surgeon Frank Phillips, MD.

If you don’t want your holiday to resemble a mash-up of “Home Alone” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” here are a few tips to promote safety around your house this season.

Use ladders wisely

It’s time to string those lights up on the roof, gutter and chimney. Or you’ve just decorated the tree and it’s time to plant that shiny star at the top.  

You’ll need to climb a ladder to get the work done. Do it safely, or you could be one of the more than 500,000 people who are treated each year for ladder-related falls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Orthopaedic experts call them “high-energy falls” because they come from greater heights. Avoiding them starts with choosing the right ladder for the job.

“Don’t use your furniture as a step stool,” Dr. Phillips said.

Step ladders are great for small jobs, like putting the angel on top of the tree, as long as you can reach the top comfortably without stretching.

With larger ladders, make sure to keep at least three points of contact at all times.

“Two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot,” Dr. Phillips said.

Keep your ladder well maintained and make sure it’s rated to support the total weight that you’re putting on it (your body weight and anything you’re carrying up).

Set your ladder up on stable ground. If using an extension ladder to reach your roof, make sure to follow the 1-to-4 rule. The bottom of your ladder should be one foot away from the wall for every four feet  you’re climbing, according to the American Ladder Institute.

And, of course, wait until after the work is done to hoist a cold one.

“You should not drink and decorate,” Dr. Phillips said. “Celebrate after you’ve decorated.”

Watch this safety video from the American Ladder Institute.

Tidy up

The wrapping paper is flying. The toys rest haphazardly around the floor. It’s a trip waiting to happen.

“It makes for a lot of hazards,” Dr. Phillips said.

These are falls that could result in broken and sprained wrists, ankles or hips – all of which can lead to complicated recovery times for elderly family members, Dr. Phillips said.

Keep your home environment clear of debris and keep a trash bag handy for picking up wrapping paper and other scraps when opening presents.

Icy conditions

We don’t usually have white Christmases in the Upstate area, but conditions can get pretty icy. They only get worse as the holidays give way to January and February.

“People are very cautious initially,” Dr. Phillips said. “Black ice is what people forget about a few days later.”

Make sure to properly treat outdoor walkways during icy conditions and exercise caution when walking, jogging or driving in cold weather.

Learn more about falls prevention from a trauma expert at Spartanburg Medical Center’s Level I Trauma Center.

Other safety tips

There are many ways to stay safe, healthy and happy during the holidays. Check out these stories to learn more:

Protect yourself from food poisoning.

Avoid CO poisoning and prevent home fires in the winter.

Recognize those holiday blues and do something about them.