Often, it’s the more mundane or seemingly benign aspects of our lives that can be the most dangerous. Take stairs, for instance. People die from stair injuries every year, and tens of thousands of children in Canada will end up in the Emergency Room as the result of a fall down a simple set of them. And that’s just, well, stairs.
Christmas, too, can be surprisingly hazardous—surprising, because we think of it in terms of hearth and home. Safe as houses, as they say. But in a sort of perverse irony, injuries of all kinds spike during the holidays. Because that’s when we let down our guards, and it shows.
In 2001, there was an outbreak of salmonella, and the Public Health Agency of Canada reported that “Because many of the patients became ill during or shortly after the Christmas season, the investigation is looking closely at seasonal foods.” Turkey can be lethal, as it was that year. Health Canada notes that, to be safe, cook the bird right away, or freeze it right away; don’t thaw it at room temperature, but rather in water or the fridge; and cook it to an internal temperature of at least 85°C (185°F).
These days, we know not to put lit candles on a Christmas tree, or to set the tree up too close to an open fire. But what a lot of us don’t know, apparently, is not to use the tree branches for fire wood. Every year, too many people are tempted to stick branches into a fireplace or dispose of the entire tree by burning it. And the frightening fact is that a dry evergreen is as flammable as napalm. Be careful with it. Keep it watered while it’s up, and take it to the curb once you bring it down. The Canada Safety Council also notes to avoid using angel hair (glass wool) together with spray-on snowflakes. The combination is highly combustible. Like napalm.
As a nation, we love our holiday feasts and a delicious turkey is usually the main course—which makes one wonder why anyone would want to try to improve on what is already a good thing. But, somewhere along the line, somebody—likely a guy—thought, “I wonder what it would taste like deep fried?” Hence the deep fat turkey fryer. Here’s what it really is: an unstable bucket of overheated oil. Turkey fryers are also shockingly flammable. The Alberta Emergency Management Agency made a video of a fireman putting a partially thawed turkey into a fryer. The resulting flames may look festive at a distance, but it’s a real holiday shocker from close up.
In all provinces, there is a spike in collisions in December, and in 2011, the Alberta Transportation office reported that “The five day Christmas season recorded the highest total number of collisions.” It wasn’t the most fatal holiday that year—that was Labour Day long weekend—but it was the most accident prone. The combination of poor winter driving conditions, busy traffic, and the stress to be places, means all the more reason to take your time on the roads.
Only during the holidays do we climb up on tall ladders and attempt to string our homes and trees with colourful electric lights. The risks here include falling from the ladder, shocking ourselves on frayed cords, starting fires by using too many extension chords that aren’t snugly plugged together, or getting frostbite because we’re not wearing gloves. Sounds comical, but all these things do happen—often.
The Grinch is the meany of Christmas, of course, but CBC reported in 2009 that we perhaps shouldn’t be so hard on him. “When people think about depression they often think about people being sad,” they quoted Cynthia Bulik, a psychologist with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “But that’s not always how depression expresses itself. Sometimes people who are depressed might get really irritable, and really grumpy and they can really withdraw socially.”
And, indeed, it’s fitting that the Grinch’s tizzy happens at the holidays, as that’s when these things are put in their starkest contrast. People are lonely, or miss loved ones due to distance or death, or are disappointed that the holidays don’t rise to the level of their expectations. We need to look out for them. And if we are feeling blue, we need to remember to speak up and talk to a friend or a counsellor. It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself during the holidays.
Are poinsettias poisonous?
For years the festive red plant has endured the bad reputation of being poisonous when consumed. But, while they are not meant to be eaten by people, pets and especially babies, ingesting poinsettias would only cause a stomach ache akin to eating any houseplant. Poinsettias have undergone extensive testing and there is no evidence that they are toxic or unsafe to have in the house.