Happy Holidays! Seasonal tips to keep everyone safe

December 15, 2017

xmas tree

On top of all of the usual hustle and bustle of the festive holiday season, in Canada the season also ushers in cold snowy winter.

This holiday season, the best gift you can give the safety of your home, your loved ones and yourself. Our number one tip for all of you is to remember, taht it's the people who matter most, so try not to get caught up in the rest.

To that end, here are some tips to help you and your family stay healthy and safe as you enjoy the festivities of the holiday season.

Fire prevention

  • Make sure your tree is fresh. Don’t buy a tree if the needles are falling off, or if they break when they are bent.
  • Secure the tree in a sturdy stand that won’t tip over.
  • If buying an artificial tree, ensure it is labelled “fire resistant.”
  • Water your tree often, and discard it promptly when it becomes dry.
  • Keep tree away from heat sources such as radiators and fireplaces.
  • Do not block doors or exit paths with the tree.
  • Never use lighted candles on a tree.
  • Do not use metallic ornaments on a tree – they could become a shock hazard if they come in contact with defective wiring.
  • Only use CSA-approved lights and cords. Do not use indoor lights outside and outdoor lights inside. Do not use damaged lights.
  • Do not burn your tree, gift-wrapping, boxes or cartons in your fireplace – they burn too quickly and intensely, and can result in sparks and flash fires.
  • Make sure all lights are unplugged before leaving your house or going to bed.
  • Do not overload outlets, and use surge protectors. Do not use more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
  • After parties, check all upholstery for smouldering cigarettes. Cigarette fires are the leading cause of fire fatalities in the home.
  • Install smoke detectors if you don’t already have them, or new batteries in the ones you have and test them. Have at least one carbon monoxide detector in your home, but do not place it beside a smoke detector. Have operable fire extinguishers readily available.

Gift-giving and toys

  • Make sure toys are age-appropriate.
  • Dispose of all unnecessary toy packaging and gift-wrap ASAP, as they can conceal sharp objects that can cut small fingers. Plastic bags pose a suffocation hazard.
  • Ensure that batteries are securely installed in electronic toys, and that unused batteries are stored in a safe location.
  • Check for broken toy parts.
  • Never leave toys on stairs or other high-traffic areas.
  • Review safety precautions with all caregivers. The holidays bring together family members who may not be used to being around young children, so review safety guidelines with grandparents, sitters and siblings.

Health considerations

  • Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass "angel hair."
  • Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.
  • Before using a cosmetic gift for the first time, rub a small amount on the back of your hand and leave it for a couple of hours. Redness or swelling may indicate an allergy.
  • Put cosmetic products away after opening them. Some cosmetics are toxic to young children.
  • Holiday plants may look good enough to eat to small children, but several of these plants can cause severe stomach problems and some are toxic. Keep plants such as mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry and amaryllis out of children’s reach.

Managing stress

Don't let the holidays take a toll on your health. With balance and moderation, you can enjoy the holidays in a healthy way.

  • Get help from family and friends when organizing holiday gatherings, as well as for meal preparation and cleanup.
  • Make some time for yourself; even 15 minutes alone without distractions may refresh you enough so you can better handle everything you need to do. Take an evening walk in the fresh air. Listen to soothing music. Whatever it is, find something that reduces your stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. 
  • Don't forget to maintain your "everyday" healthy habits. Continue to get plenty of sleep and make time for physical activity, whether it be dancing to your favourite music or enjoying an outdoor sport.
  • To avoid overindulging on sweets and drinks, eat a healthy snack before social gatherings. Choose fresh fruit as substitute for candy. Another tip is to pick just one or two of your favorites from the array of tempting foods.
  • Allow enough time to shop rather than hurry through stores and parking lots. Only plan to do a reasonable number of errands.
  • When shopping, make several trips to the car to drop off packages rather than trying to carry too many items.

Drink safely and responsibly

If you will be going to parties or gatherings over the holidays where alcohol will be served, it is important to plan ahead and drink responsibly to stay safe and avoid injury, to yourself and others. 

  • Before the first drink is consumed, decide who will be the designated, non-drinking driver.
  • Don't drive if you have been drinking and don't let anyone else drink and drive.
  • Take a taxi, public transportation, or walk where possible. Consider using Operation Red Nose!.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink. A good tip is to alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and space your alcoholic drinks at least an hour apart.
  • Remember to have something to eat with your alcoholic beverage.

Food safety

From the buffet table to the office party, food takes centre stage throughout the holiday season. Prevent food-related illness by following these safety steps:

  • To rid raw foods of bacteria, fully cook meats and poultry, and thoroughly wash raw vegetables and fruits.
  • Wash your hands and surfaces frequently and make sure your children do the same.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs (including their juices) away from ready-to-eat cooked foods and use separate utensils when preparing and serving.
  • Always thaw meat in the refrigerator, never on the countertop.
  • Refrigerate foods promptly. Perishable foods that require refrigeration should never be left out at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Store turkey meat separately from stuffing and gravy.
  • Reheat solid leftovers to at least 74°C (165°F). Bring gravy to a full, rolling boil and stir during the process.
  • Use leftover turkey meat, bones, stuffing, gravy and other cooked dishes within four days for best quality or freeze for later use

Portions of this content are reprinted with kind permission from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s (CCOHS)  The Health and Safety Report.


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