Beware silly season injuries

DEATH by Christmas – yes, there is plenty of reason to fear Christmas cheer with a long list of injuries that peak end of year.

Along with the threat of choking on threepences and falling off ladders are the dangers of new toys, small toys, and hypoglycaemia or dehydration when people take long car trips with no breaks.

There is the increased risk of food poisoning, heat exhaustion, and cutting of fingers while carving.

Warnings have also been issued about the wise use of waterways and handtools, stings and bites, and the rise in incidence of depression, road deaths, and alcohol-fuelled domestic violence during the holidays.

Hunter New England health clinical nurse consultant for trauma Kate King cites an annual ‘‘silly season spike’’ in the number of people presenting with severe injuries of up to 45 per cent above average. Ladders are the biggest culprits when it comes to injuries around the home, especially when used by older people hanging Christmas lights, with several such cases in John Hunter Hospital every week, she said. They end up with fractured skulls, broken ribs, and bleeding on the brain.

“Retired men seem to be most at risk because they’re most likely to attempt DIY projects,’’ she said.

“We also see a lot of people who have sustained injuries because they haven’t used nail guns and screw drivers safely.” 

People on blood thinning medications such as aspirin or Warfarin are at increased risk of severe injury, along with unsupervised children with new toys, or young children with small toys.

While such gifts may be appropriate for the intended recipient, they may not be ideal for siblings, Ms King said.

“Children put toy parts in their ears, mouth and up their nose and they often need surgery to remove it,” she said. 

And to the traditionalists tempted to put pennies in puddings, consider spending Christmas Day in emergency with a guest who has swallowed or choked on a coin. Ms King urges avoiding  excessive consumption of alcohol, and plan ahead to take extra time on the roads.

‘‘Drive to conditions, take regular breaks and be aware of warning signs such as tiredness, headaches or just that gut feeling of not feeling quite right,’’ she said.

‘‘These are all descriptions we have heard time and again from injured drivers when asked what caused their accident. Prevention is the best cure for trauma.’’

● NSW Health yesterday issued a reminder to families planning to spend time away from home during the Christmas holidays to take an important 24-hour health advice phone number with them.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the healthdirect Australia helpline provided valuable health advice.

Healthdirect helpline 1800 022 222

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