Awareness of Holiday Health Hazards Help Make Most of the Season

Proper handling of food, careful disposal of gift wrap can prevent injuries and illness

DAYTON, Ohio (November 12, 2013) – The holidays are a time to celebrate, give thanks and reflect, but moments with family and friends can come to a halt if special attention is not given to your health and safety, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It is estimated that more than 12,500 Americans have to visit the emergency department each year due to holiday-related accidental injuries, reports the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Common problems include allergic reactions to skyrocketing mold counts inside the home from Christmas trees to children choking on pieces of gift wrap or toy packaging, the commission said.

Andrew Diller, MD, of Brookville Family Care, said steps to a safer holiday need to take place from the kitchen – where food is prepared for large family feasts – to living rooms where safety is found in the details of burning candles, small plastic toys and live Christmas trees.

“The first thing that people need to think about is how they handle and prepare the food for their holiday gatherings,” said Dr. Diller, a family physician with Premier HealthNet. “The important things to remember in order to prevent food-borne illnesses is to wash your hands before preparing foods, to wash surfaces often to avoid cross contamination of foods like raw meat, eggs and fresh vegetables, and to prepare it at the right cooking temperature.”

Safety goes beyond a food’s preparation. Perishable foods such as anything made with dairy products should never be left outside of the refrigerator for more than two hours. This often can be overlooked at large gatherings where individuals become distracted and lose track of time. As a result, Dr. Diller recommends designating a person to monitor food and keep track of what time it should be placed back into the refrigerator. It’s a simple strategy that could make a significant difference in an individual’s holiday season.

A studied released by the CDC in 2011, estimated that each year roughly one in six Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of food borne diseases. The most common pathogen leading to food borne illnesses is the norovirus – a very contagious virus that can infect anyone. Individuals can get the virus from an infected person, from contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Symptoms of the virus include inflammation of the stomach and intestines, which leads to stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, according to the CDC.

Dr. Diller said there are several things parents should keep in mind when it comes to the safety of their children this holiday season. Decorations can often include live plants or flowers – such as mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry and amaryllis. Children should be taught to never put these plants in their mouths as they can often cause severe stomach problems, according to the National Safety Council.

Be mindful of loose gift wrap, batteries and small pieces from a toy’s packaging as each can pose a choking hazard to children all the way up to the age of six, Dr. Diller said. And adults should be wise when it comes to the placement of alcoholic beverages. Always discard partial glasses of alcoholic drinks and never leave a drink unattended or place it on a level at which a younger child can reach it.

There is much time and care that goes into choosing the right gift for others during the holiday season, but perhaps the best thing individuals can offer is the extra time it takes to ensure those around them have a safe and healthy holiday season.

To find out more holiday health tips, or to find a Premier HealthNet physician near you, visit

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