Decorating for Christmas? How to avoid the ER this holiday season

Dr. Brian Fricke offers tips to avoid injuries

SAN ANTONIO – The most wonderful time of the year also has a reputation for being among the most dangerous, as it’s traditionally responsible for approximately 16,000 injuries annually stemming from Christmas decorating activities.

Time constraints, fatigue, and alcohol consumption are some of the culprits. Dr. Brian Fricke at University Health says there are safety measures you can take.

First, recognize that all that tinsel, your Christmas tree, and other holiday trinkets up in the attic need time to retrieve. Rushing to decorate is not your friend.

Fricke, a rehab specialist, says you need to be mindful of how to handle those boxes.

“The most unstable position that your back can be in, and puts you at most risk for an injury, is when you’re holding something heavy in front of yourself, leaning out forward, and you’re moving to the side and twisting,” he said.

It’s almost a perfect description of how someone might be picking up and moving boxes out of the attic.

Of course, hanging up outdoor lights is inherently dangerous due to the height and precarious position you must place yourself on the roofline or in tall trees.

“They crawl on their roof and invariably will fall off and get a lot of fractures, head injuries, spine injuries that can really put a damper on a holiday,” Fricke warned.

He added that a fall from a high rung on a ladder might require a trip to the emergency room to determine if a head injury has occurred and for X-rays. If it’s more of a minor injury that doesn’t go away, a trip to your local clinic will do.

Trying to place the tree topper or ornaments high up on your tree may more than likely result in a simple, painful back strain or a small fall. This is another moment when you should take your time and even recruit a friend to help hold you steady.

Fricke recommends having someone with you to help so that they can keep an eye on you, but he does not like the idea of small children working as your decorating assistant as they are more likely to get hurt too if you lose your balance.

“If you find yourself in that position where you’re reaching for something and can’t quite get to it, take a minute step down off the ladder, reposition, and get yourself closer,” Fricke said.

It will take more time, but at least you won’t be putting yourself in dangerous situations.

Don’t forget to lift heavy boxes with your knees bent, and if it’s too heavy, either unpack it in place or get a helper.

Finally, Dr. Fricke suggests you do your decorating in the morning when you’re not tired and before you may have indulged in any alcoholic beverages.

About the Author:

Ursula Pari has been a staple of television news in Texas at KSAT 12 News since 1996 and a veteran of broadcast journalism for more than 30 years.