Falling off stepladders while decking the halls, cutting hands while chopping swedes, breaking toes by dropping a frozen turkey on your foot and children getting toy blocks stuck up their nose, are among the common injuries that see people heading to hospital over Christmas. In fact, more than *80,000 people arrive in the Emergency Department over the festive period due to accidents like these. Staff at Swansea Bay University Health Board have put together a list of their most common ‘festive fails’ and advice on how to avoid them and, more importantly, where you should go to get the right help.
More than 80,000 people in the UK arrive in the Emergency Department for Christmas-related accidents – everything from fairy light burns, children choking on decorations or being poisoned by batteries, falls from step-ladders or chairs, alcohol-related accidents and others. One in 40 people have suffered an electrical shock due to badly wired Christmas lights and 1 in 50 people have fallen from the loft when getting decorations down.
Swansea Bay University Health Board is urging people in the region to ‘help us, help you’ by being careful during their celebrations, but also by knowing where to get the correct help if they do get into difficulties. This can range from visiting the pharmacy, optician or dentist to calling 111 or visiting the Minor Injury Unit at Neath Port Talbot Hospital.
Dr Andrew MacNab, Emergency Department Consultant at Morriston Hospital, said: “We treat people who have fallen from their loft, who have lifted boxes of decorations that are too heavy, who have slipped on spills in the kitchen, or have dropped the turkey on their foot. Seasonal stress, excited children and pets, electrical goods, alcohol and busy kitchens all help to fill the home with Christmas spirit, but they also add extra dangers to our homes. We all like surprises at Christmas, but a trip to the hospital is one we could all do without.
“One of the most important things we can all consider is making sure that if we do have a health issue over the festive period, that we go to the right place for the appropriate care. Our very clear message this season is please help us, help you by tapping into the appropriate help, by consulting your pharmacy, calling 111 or visiting the Minor Injury Unit (MIU) in Neath Port Talbot Hospital. If you have a minor injury, the MIU can treat you, and they generally have far shorter waiting times.
If you are unwell but it’s not a 999 emergency, you can ring 111 for advice about the right place for the most appropriate care and support. Sometimes, patients will be referred straight to the Emergency Department because of the nature of their illness or injury, so they save a wasted journey and get the right treatment as soon as possible. Sometimes the solution lies on the high street – very often, patients are advised to go to their local pharmacy, optician or dentist.
Dr MacNab adds: “We know some people are nervous about coming to hospital because they are worried about Covid-19 but any delay can make an injury worse. Bear in mind that we all wear appropriate PPE. These are all changed between each patient and all surfaces are thoroughly cleaned down. Don’t delay – if you feel something is wrong, contact us. Remember too that NHS 111 Wales is available, so you can check your symptoms online or give them a call if you need further advice. Let’s all do our bit to stay safe and well this Christmas.”
*Data from RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents)
How to Avoid Becoming a Christmas Statistic
Swansea Bay University Health Board have put together a guide of the common incidents that occur so you can avoid becoming a Christmas statistic. Follow their guide to keep you and your family safe over the festive season:
People with food allergies should take extra care at Christmas, particularly if you are buying special dishes that you aren’t familiar with, or if you are having catering. Check ingredients lists carefully.
A little sherry whilst cooking is a perk of the chef, but accidents are more likely to happen in the kitchen and the home if you drink too much. Alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks and perhaps wait until you sit down with a meal before you pour. Make sure any residual alcohol is emptied out of glasses, so children and pets can’t get to them.
Keep glass and fragile decorations out of reach of toddlers and pets, and check toy safety standards. Small parts from gadgets or crackers can be a choking hazard for children.
More than 1,000 people each year are hurt while decorating their Christmas tree according to RoSPA, usually whilst adding the star or the fairy to the top branch. Don’t use unstable chairs or stools – always opt for a step-ladder.
350 people a year are injured by Christmas tree lights, either during falls, by electric shocks and burns, or by swallowing the bulbs – they can look like sweets to young children. Test your lights and wiring before you put them up. RoSPA reports that between 1997-2010, 26 people died as a result of watering their Christmas tree with the lights on. Make sure you unplug them first.
People are 50 percent more likely to die in a house fire at Christmas than at any other time of the year. It is important to keep Christmas cards, paper decorations and the Christmas tree away from candles, fires or heaters, make sure your smoke alarms and your Carbon Monoxide detectors are working, and don’t borrow batteries from your smoke alarm to power a Christmas toy.
There are around one million cases of food poisoning every year – make sure you defrost and cook your turkey thoroughly. Salmonella poisoning can be life-threatening for some people. Never risk taking short cuts as it takes hours to cook the bird properly.
Hot oven trays, boiling water, knives and spills can make the kitchen hazardous, and accidents while preparing Christmas food are common. Burns from hot fat are common, too. Make the kitchen a no-go area for pets and children, wipe up spills swiftly, treat small burns by holding them under tepid running water for 20 minutes, and don’t dig into the wine until you are at the table.
Falls can be very serious, particularly for the elderly, and strewn toys and wrapping can make stairs and cramped hallways accident hotspots at Christmas. Keep stairs, entrances, exit and hallways clutter-free.
Holly and mistletoe might add festive romance, but their berries are toxic. Choose non-toxic Christmas foliage, or keep them away from children and pets.
Batteries and magnets
Many Christmas novelty items will have small button batteries that are easily accessible to children. They can cause internal bleeding or perforation. Small magnets can also cause bowel perforation. Check that all batteries and magnets are secured inside toys, remote controls and novelty cards and gadgets.
• Visit your pharmacy to register for the Common Ailments Service.
• For advice 24/7 when it is URGENT but NOT AN EMERGENCY ring 111 or visit 111.wales.nhs.uk
• Your optician is the best first port of call for eye issues or injuries and can refer to the hospital if necessary.
• Your dentist can provide emergency treatment for all tooth, gum or mouth issues. Call 111 if you are not registered with a dentist.
• For minor injuries, visit the Minor Injury Unit at Neath Port Talbot Hospital. Open between 7.30am and 11.00pm, seven days a week. Call: 01639 862160
• If it is a serious or life-threatening illness or injury ring 999 or go to the Emergency Department at Morriston Hospital.