‘Tis the season to be jolly but December is also the busiest time of year for first responders and ERs across Ontario.
Here are 12 tips to stay healthy and safe during the holidays:
1. Cooking and smoking are the leading causes of home fires in Ontario. Never leave a stove unattended. If you need to step away for even just a couple of minutes, turn off the stove.
2. Encourage smokers to smoke outside and use large, deep ashtrays that cannot be knocked over easily, away from anything that can burn. Don’t empty ashtrays into your regular garbage—store them in a metal container (like a used coffee tin) and store them outside.
If you smoke and would like to quit, the Lung Health Foundation has programs to support you on your journey toward your smoke-free life.
3. If you have a real Christmas tree in your home or workplace, set it away from heat sources such as fireplaces, heaters, or candles; keep the base in water; and water your tree daily.
4. Keep open flames away from anything that may be combustible, like curtains, decorations, garlands, etc., and never leave a burning candle unattended. Where appropriate, consider using electronic candles as part of your holiday or placing candles in an enclosed candle holder or sturdy, burn-resistant container that won’t tip.
Always remember to extinguish candles and turn off/unplug Christmas tree lights when you go out or before you go to bed.
5. Toys and electronics aren’t the only things that need new batteries over the holidays. Make changing the batteries in your smoke alarms part of your holiday traditions so that you remember to change them each year.
There should be a working smoke alarm on every level of your home. Test them once a month to make sure they work and replace them every 10 years.
6. Food is one of the best parts of any holiday but too much sugary, high-fat, and high-calorie food can leave you feeling sluggish instead of festive.
To feel your best and keep up your energy for holiday festivities, you should limit the number of treats and stick to a balanced diet but that doesn’t mean giving up your favourites! Filling half your plate with vegetables and a quarter of your plate with protein before you reach for the stuffing will help you get the right balance of foods and still allow you to indulge a bit. And if you do overindulge, don’t panic! Eating to stay healthy is about more than one meal.
For more information about how you can eat healthy and manage your blood sugar over the holidays, visit Diabetes Canada.
7. You may be dreaming of a white Christmas, but snow also contributes to the increase in the number of deaths from heart attack or stroke during the winter. Older people should be especially cautious when moving around in snowy conditions. Simply walking in wet, heavy snow can be strenuous. Shovelling or trying to push a car out of a snowbank can place a dangerous strain on the heart.
Check in with older family members, friends and neighbours in snowy weather and help them make a plan to manage snow and ice, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
8. Check your lights before you decorate. Replace any with worn or damaged cords or loose bulb connections. If you’re still using incandescent lights in your decorating, consider switching to LED lights, which are cooler and less likely to cause a fire through overheating. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for indoor or outdoor use.
9. Avoid running extension cords across high-traffic areas in your home or workplace. This is a tripping hazard and pulling on the cord as you fall can also bring down anything connected to the extension cord. Never run cords under rugs which can damage the cord and cause a fire. Avoid overloading a circuit by plugging in lots of extension cords into a single outlet.
10. When decking the halls, use a ladder or stool to hang decorations above head height. Do not use chairs and other furniture that are not designed to be stood on. Make sure your stepladder is fully open before climbing on it, and that the ladder or stool is set up on a firm, level and non-slippery surface. Don’t overreach. Take a moment to climb down and move the ladder or stool when needed, and if possible, have someone spot you to help keep your balance and prevent falls.
11. Be thoughtful about alcohol and recreational drug use over the holidays. Both alcohol and recreational drug use can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, and it’s easy to over-consume alcohol during the holidays. And you should never, ever, ever drive if you have been drinking or using drugs in any amount.
If you intend to drink or get high, plan how you will get home before you go out, whether that’s arranging a designated driver, making sure you take both money and your phone with you so you can call a cab or a ride-share, or take public transit and get home safely at the end of the night.
12. Between shopping, decorating, cooking, and visiting with family and friends, the holidays can sometimes feel like you’re running a marathon. One of the best ways to stay healthy and happy during the holidays is to make sure you’re getting enough sleep!
Shortchanging yourself on sleep can leave you cranky and short-tempered, raise your blood pressure, and contribute to over-indulging in food and alcohol. Include time for eight hours of sleep a night in your holiday planning to help make your season merry and bright.
Best wishes from Federated Health Charities for safe and happy holidays for all!