Medical City Healthcare - November 22, 2016

North Texans know that when temperatures drop, it's time for holiday decorations to go up. Meaning the only thing more plentiful than twinkle lights, frosty icicles and giant wreaths are the various types of ladders and stepstools used to hang them. If you're determined to avoid a fall this season, read on to learn about holiday ladder safety. Because taking a fall that leaves you in need of emergency care is sure to dampen your holiday cheer.

According to Matthew Carrick, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City Plano, this happens more often than you might think. In fact, emergency rooms see an increase in patients at this time of year, not only from the more than 30 percent increase in heart attacks and other heart-related problems that happen in winter or the rise in the number of holiday burns and cuts, but also from slip and fall injuries sustained by people preparing for and enjoying the season.

Consumer Product Safety Commission puts the number of people injured while decorating for the holidays during November and December at more than 12,000 every year since 2009, with about 14,500 in 2014. That's roughly 240 people per day. At least a third of those are injured in some type of fall.

"As it starts to get a little cooler, everyone starts to get excited about the holidays," said Dr. Carrick. "They start getting out the decorations and putting them up, and this is when we start to see a lot of injuries. One that you wouldn't think is very common but actually happens a lot, is people falling through the floor of their attic into their house. You need to be very careful walking around inside your attic getting your Christmas decorations down."

This means making sure the attic area is well lit and not so packed with stuff that it's hard to get around. Most importantly, everyone needs to know where the finished area (the part with the flooring) begins and ends.

Another way that North Texans can be injured in a fall is from walking on ice.

"When it gets a little bit colder, every once in a while it will ice up and most Texans aren't too sure about how to walk on ice," Dr. Carrick said. "So every autumn and winter we get a lot of falls related to people decorating for the holidays and people slipping and falling on ice."

We asked Dr. Carrick and Mathis Adams, MD, trauma director at Medical City McKinney, for their best holiday safety tips.

Holiday ladder safety: Just don't fall, y'all.

"Holiday ladder safety is really important, especially for our older adults, said Dr. Adams. "Even a relatively simple fall could have dire health consequences. Make sure that extension cords and other floor decorations are out of walking paths, especially in the homes of our elderly, to prevent tripping hazards."

Ladders can be particularly troublesome, but certainly better than a chair or other makeshift climbing device.

Dr. Carrick agrees. "You need to be especially aware if you're taking any aspirin or blood thinning medications because these put you at increased risk for internal hemorrhaging or bleeding after a fall from a ladder," he said.

Top 5 ladder safety tips.

  • Use a ladder that safely reaches higher levels (extends at least 3 feet over the working surface)
  • Have someone steady the ladder
  • Place the ladder on firm, level ground away from doors that can be opened
  • Fully open the ladder by checking all rung locks and spreader braces
  • Download the CDC's free, award-winning NIOSH Ladder Safety App, which includes:
    • A ladder selection tool to help you choose the right ladder for the job
    • An angle measuring tool for extension ladders
    • An inspection tool with a comprehensive mechanical checklist
    • A proper use tool with a set of rules for safe ladder use
    • An accessories tool to help you customize your extension ladder

Watch Melanie Leonard, RN, trauma program manager at Medical City North Hills, for more ladder safety stats and tips.

5 bonus holiday safety tips from Dr. Adams.

  • Keep trees away from fireplaces and radiators
  • Place candles and menorahs away from curtains and flammable decorations
  • Ensure that tree light wires and extension cords are intact
  • Some live plants are poisonous, so place cautiously around children or pets
  • Be careful about where you place decorations that have sharp edges, are breakable or are small enough for children to grab and swallow

"The most important message is to slow down, take a deep breath and enjoy the holidays," said Dr. Adams. "This is the most challenging thing for all of us to do at this time of year, but we still need to enforce safety measures. A few seconds of inattentiveness or risky behavior can derail the course of a healthy life forever."

We wish you and your family a very safe and happy holiday season, but if someone in your family takes a major spill, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or visit Medical City Virtual Care for non-emergency medical treatment from your computer or smartphone.

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