Top ten Christmas health risks


Ready for Christmas? You may have your Christmas menu planned, your tree decorated and your presents wrapped, but have you thought about the potential dangers? Don't worry, I have - and so have lots of other people intent on ensuring you keep well this festive season.

So here, in no particular order, is my personal selection of the top 10 Christmas health risks. I naturally expect readers to take great exception with the list and suggest their own and probably to accuse me of being a Christmas kill-joy. Not so, but a few sensible precautions could help prevent this being a festive period to forget. A merry - and healthy - Christmas to you all.

Turkey A turkey to remember?
1. Don't let it be a turkey

Turkey is probably the biggest thing that goes in your oven each year - if not what else? - and here are some simple ways to make sure it's part of a meal to remember for the right reasons. Don't wash it before cooking. The majority of us do and that simply risks spreading harmful bacteria over worktops. If you have bought a frozen bird then make sure it is fully defrosted with no ice crystals inside. Cook it properly until none of the meat is pink and the juices run clear. You might prefer Delia or Jamie but NHS Choices has advice on cooking turkey. In the interests of balance you should know that summer is the peak time of year for food poisoning.

2. High lights, low lights

It may look festive but dragging a tree - plastic or wooden - into your living room and covering it with electric lights and tiny glass baubles is asking for trouble! According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) around 1,000 people visit A&E after calamities with their tree and 350 following problems with Christmas lights. How many years have you been using those lights? Consider a new set, and remember to turn them off at night.

3. Up in smoke

That line of tea lights flickering on the window ledge won't seem such a good idea if your curtains are set ablaze. Candles cause more than 1,000 house fires and several deaths every year. Fairy lights, decorations and even Christmas cards are also a fire hazard. You are more 50% more likely to die in a house fire at Christmas than any other time. Make sure you don't take the battery out of your smoke alarm to supply a new toy. A scary video of how a Christmas tree can turn into an inferno can be seen here. But remember the majority of house fires start in the kitchen. The UK Fire Service has advice for a safe Christmas.

4. Mind your step

There are more accidental falls and traffic accidents in December with bad weather and short daylight hours both playing a part. Snow and ice can be a lethal opponent to even the fittest individual and the best drivers. Last winter there were 76 deaths due to exposure to the cold, 25 fatalities caused by falling on ice or snow and one involving ice skates. The AA has winter driving advice.

Christmas decorations Watch out for those baubles
5. Keep an eye on the kids

Christmas offers a whole variety of choking hazards from Christmas tree bulbs to decorations. Make sure presents are appropriate for the age and watch out for small items that could be swallowed by toddlers. RoSPA has Christmas safety advice.

6. I couldn't eat another

Let's face it most of us will eat too much over Christmas. That's not a problem if it's a one-off, but two out of three adults are overweight or obese. The British Heart Foundation says Christmas lunch can provide more calories than are needed in an entire day and has advice on how to reduce fat and calorie consumption, such as removing skin from turkey and eating slowly.

7. Hic...

Whereas eating too much will simply harm your own waistline, excess alcohol can ruin the lives of others too. Assaults - many fuelled by alcohol - and drink driving both rise over Christmas and New Year. There is also a rise in alcohol poisoning.

8. Unfestive fevers

There are always more deaths in winter than other times of year, with causes such as respiratory and circulatory diseases, and infections like flu. There are five times as many emergency admissions for pneumonia in December compared to August and cold weather also triggers a rise in asthma problems . There are more cases of norovirus - or winter vomiting bug - around than in recent years, but we are a long way off the peak of early 2010. Colds, sore throats and painful joints are all more prevalent in winter. There are things you can do to minimise some risks such as have a flu jab, stay warm and wash your hands regularly.

9. The season of ill will

Let's face it, family arguments are a far more reliable bet than the chances of a white Christmas. The advice from Relate is not to play the blame game with your partner or family (try charades instead); delegate and share responsibilities, confront the issue and not each other and avoid sarcasm. I'll try - honest - but keep in mind the old saying - guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.

10. Lonely this Christmas

There's only one thing worse than being surrounded by your relatives at Christmas and that's not being surrounded by them. Someone calls Samaritans every six seconds but the charity says the idea that Christmas is the busiest time of year is something of a myth. Research suggests there is a fall in suicides during the Christmas period followed by an increase just after the New Year. Of course loneliness is just one of many problems people face in the coming weeks. Some will be confronted by a growing mountain of debt early in the New Year as Christmas bills start to pour in. Then there is marital breakdown - more people consider ending their relationship in January than at any other time.

Fergus Walsh Article written by Fergus Walsh Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    I am not going to leave candles burning under the curtains as I am not stupid! I am not going to go out in the freezing cold wearing just a pair of boxer shorts and a smile! Nor am I going to eat pink turkey, and I am capable of deciding for myself whether or not the tree lights are still working correctly! Yes, Christmas cards are a fire hazard - if you light them with a match!

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    ..and where do Rospa drag up their 'figures'? Are doctors busily writing 'injured by Xmas tree' and elvish clerks adding the figures? Sounds like the National Guesswork Authority to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.


    Sparing in what though?! After all us British blokes are not exactly known for being forthcoming about much in this world....!

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    150. USAperson "British men sparing in the streets"

    It has just occurred to me that you may have meant 'sparring' (practice boxing). Still not sure why you would like to imagine that - people in England punch each other often which is one reason why I never go there.
    Unfortunately, 'sparing' is a very different word with a very different meaning and my mind did not make the leap immediately.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    150. USAperson "It is called both - Feast of the Three Kings being easier to remember for RC school children"

    Must be a USA thing. My partner was a RC schoolchild and has never heard of that either. Happily now an atheist.

    "but I do like to imagine British men sparing in the streets"

    Sparing what? I do not know any British men so cannot comment on that reagrdless of what it is meant to mean.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    138. giovanna

    I have not heard of the feast of three kings! Jan 6 is called Epiphany in your calendar -

    It is called both - Feast of the Three Kings being easier to remember for RC school children.

    I know that boxing day is cleanup day but I do like to imagine British men sparing in the streets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    147. Little_Old_Me "there are only 367 shopping days until next Christmas"

    I have to do my weekly grocery shopping tomorrow - always do it on Mondays. Hopefully, there will not be too many tragic shoppers cluttering up the place. I have nothing special to buy - just the usual week's worth of food etc. And the following week, Monday will be old year's night ... now that might get busy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    132. Teenie "but can't get out of going to family ... we are being guilted in to this"

    If your boys are young and active - while at parents house sit, smile, and totally ignore any havoc they wreak - - you won't be asked back next year in fact your family may all hide out from them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    One thought occurs.....

    ...there are only 367 shopping days until next Christmas....????!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Basically: if you hear a voice in your head that says "I would do that if I were you", pay attention to it. This is journalism is it? Telling people to exercise common sense? I'll retire to Bedlam.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    The worst thing about Christmas is that it goes on for TWO months. The advertizing on T.V. started in October and I am bored silly with it all. Years ago Christmas got going mid December and nobody was expected to spend huge amounts of money or cook a lunch that was fit for Nigella or Delia!! Roll on January I say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    128. General Rab "Christmas is an Astrological event, hijacked and reinvented by a certain organised religion"

    The solstice is an astronomical event. I am not sure where astrology fits in unless you only read your horoscope in the winter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    142.abb0 - "If you take your carbs from veggies, then yes, fine."

    Once again, it depends on balance - take fizzy drinks/junk food for example, almost all their carbs come from sweet corn, but they stuff so much corn syrup into those products they cannot be eaten/drunk healthily more than once a week......

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    If you take your carbs from veggies, then yes, fine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.


    Saturated fats do come with health risks - it is non saturated fats that make up part of a healthy, balanced diet.

    Whilst excess carbohydrates will make you fat, carbs in proportion are also part of healthy diet.

    Balance is the key - no one should leave any major food groups out of their diet (unless of curse they are allergic to any given food stuff).....

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    I don't understand why you are making news out of unproven studies, the only facts that have studies to back them up are that sat fats do not make you fat, carbohydrates do. If you eat a low carb high fat diet you will loose weight your cholesterol will go down and if you are type 2 diabetic so will your blood sugar. Facts Bourne out by medical studies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Perhaps # 1 Health risk:
    Tennessee toddler dead after accidentally shooting himself. 2-year-old Brennan Nowell died late Thursday from his injuries.
    4 Dead in Rural Pennsylvania Shooting Three troopers were injured before fatally shooting the gunman who killed three people.
    O'FALLON PARK, MO: 41-year-old man was shot Friday night for owing a man an undisclosed amt for marijuana...

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    115. USAperson "You mean you haven't heard of the 12 days of Christmas?"

    I have not heard of the feast of three kings! Jan 6 is called Epiphany in your calendar - I have heard of that.
    I do not have decorations so do not need to know when to put them up or take them down. Both the solstice and the Saturnalia are finished. Nothing to celebrate until Hogmanay and that only lasts until Jan 2.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    132. Teenie "but can't get out of going to family ... we are being guilted in to this"

    Perhaps you should grow up and say 'no'. It isn't that hard to learn to be an independent adult - try it and surprise yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    134.John_from_Hendon - "..............Well it can't have anything to do with the fact that all of medicine is now a money grabbing racket can it?!"

    Apparently, according to the Coalition, that is how it works best.... & private profit before people.....

    ....their trashing of the NSH is the single biggest crime of this sorry excuse for a Govt......


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