HealthONE - December 18, 2017

As the weather starts to turn colder, you may notice that the holiday season starts to heat up. But activities that come standard this time of year— like spending more time in the kitchen, decorating the house and shopping for that perfect gift— can actually cause excess stress and even injuries. Here are a few holiday health tips to keep your good cheer.

Manage your stress

Getting together with family and friends, feeling pressure to give gifts and working with a tight budget can lead to an abundance of stress. Before you pack your calendar with events, consider the effect on your health and try to work in some time for yourself.

"Exercise can help keep off unwanted holiday pounds and keep your blood pressure down," said Dr. Reynaria Pitts, board-certified cardiologist with Aurora Denver Cardiology Associates at North Suburban Medical Center. "If you take better care of yourself, you'll be in a better position to give to others."

Additionally, tension between friends and family members can be heightened this time of year, and so can loneliness. Staying healthy is the best way to tackle anxiety and depression, which can feel worse this time of year.

Control chronic disease

If you're living with chronic health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease, you may experience an increase in symptoms during the holidays.

"This time of year, we tend to see more people with chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes," says Pitts. "Most people stop exercising and are more relaxed about diet, which can complicate these chronic conditions."

All the events this time of year may throw you off your routine. Do your best to keep exercising and eat as healthfully as you can. If you start to stray from healthy habits, just do your best to get back on track quickly.

Don't feel the burn

Some of the biggest holiday health hazards come from your Christmas tree, lit candles and a roaring fireplace. A Christmas tree can catch fire and burn up in as little as 10 seconds, so make sure you regularly water live tress and dispose of them properly at the end of the season. Additionally, make sure fake trees don't become a holiday hazard by keeping them free of dust and replace frayed holiday lights as needed every year.

"The kitchen can be one of the most dangerous places during the holidays," said Pitts. "The emergency room sees an increase in the number of scald burns that come through, especially among children." 

It's best to keep small children away from the kitchen and keep an eye on older kids. Kids can get into trouble with simple decorations like tablecloths, which can be pulled down along with hot dishes. Additionally, test the temperature of food before you serve it, keep hot dishes out of reach, and consider setting up a separate station for kids to perform safe cooking tasks like mixing and measuring.

At the end of the day, the best way to avoid holiday hazards like scalds and burns is to use common sense. Check to make sure all your smoke detectors work properly, keep lit candles away from children and pets, and be cautious while cooking and using things like space heaters.

Avoid accidents

Icy road conditions and poor visibility are only some of the hazards on the road this winter. The increase in parties this time of year leads to an increase in accidents caused by drunk driving.

"Trauma caused by drunk driving is one of the worst problems we see in the ER this time of year," adds Dr. Pitts. "Enjoy holiday celebrations, but always have a designated driver."

Along with car accidents, too many holiday drinks and an uneven playing field could spell disaster in your backyard. Play it safe to avoid sprains, tears, fractures and concussions, which are all too common this time of year.

Drink in moderation

Along with never driving drunk, you should be aware of other holiday health hazards posed by excessive alcohol consumption.

"Alcohol poisoning can have very serious health risks. In addition, people will tend to increase their alcohol consumption from what is recommended. For men, it should be no more than 14 drinks per week and for women 7 drinks per week. In addition, it is also important to know the serving size of a drink," said Dr. Pitts. "Keep an eye out for your friends and family by using the buddy system at parties, and always prevent anyone who has been drinking from getting behind the wheel."

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