As the season of togetherness rolls in, regular routines roll out. You do things you don’t normally do: decorating, cooking, hosting guests (and their germs), or playing a pick-up game of football in the backyard. As you channel your inner Julia Child, Aaron Rodgers, or Martha Stewart in preparation for your holiday gatherings, here are five things you should remember:
1. Don’t let your holidays go up in smoke
Winter is the season to put up a tree, light up the fireplace, or set out candles to decorate your holiday table. Unfortunately, candle fires are four times as likely to happen during the winter holidays. The kitchen is also a source of danger: cooking fires account for 72 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires.
- Keep alert. Installing a smoke alarm on every level of your home cuts your risk of dying in a fire by half. Make sure to test alarms once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year.
- Mind the stove. Keep pot holders, wooden utensils, food packaging, and towels away from the stove. Never leave the stove unattended, even for a few minutes – and turn off the burner if you leave the kitchen.
- Blow it out. Make sure all candles, smoking materials, and fireplaces are properly extinguished before leaving the room or going to bed. Remember to unplug holiday lights too!
Cutting, chopping, and busy preparations mean you’re paying attention to many things at once. Whether you’re hosting an elaborate dinner party or bringing a dish to the neighborhood potluck, keep these tips in mind:
- Cut carefully. Use a stable surface and make sure your cutting board doesn’t slip away. Remember to cut away from your body and keep your fingers out of the way of your knife.
- Little fingers make big disasters. Children can reach up and grab a pot or pan and spill the hot contents over themselves. Use back burners when possible and turn pot handles away from the edge.
- Be food safety savvy. Don’t invite food poisoning to your feast. Use separate cutting boards, plates, and knives for produce and for raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Use a food thermometer to make sure food cooked in the oven or on the stove top or grill reaches a temperature hot enough to kill germs. In the case of your Thanksgiving turkey, that’s 165°F.
3. Give the gift of health
Nothing brings down the holiday spirit like a case of stomach flu or a cold. Germs from a cough or sneeze can live on surfaces for longer than 2 hours and spread from person to person in close quarters. Holiday gatherings are breeding grounds for germs like the flu and the common cold. Airports, airplanes, taxis, and rideshare cars are also likely places to pick up a virus.
- Wet, lather, scrub, rinse, dry. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Hands off. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Get a flu shot. Remind your guests (6 months of age and older) to get vaccinated this year.
4. Bundle up!
Twice as many people die every year from extreme cold temperatures as extreme heat. If you’ll be outside, make sure you’re dressed for the weather.
- Choose your wardrobe wisely. Wear warm winter clothes, plenty of extra layers, and don’t leave areas of the skin exposed to the cold.
- Avoid. Spot. Treat. Learn to recognize the symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite.
5. Avoid the ER
Many holiday activities are things you only do once a year, like running in the annual turkey trot or decorating the outside of your house with holiday lights. Stay out of the emergency room with these tips:
- Ramp up gradually. Your risk for a cardiac event, such as heart attack, or other injuries can go up when you’re suddenly more active than usual. Don’t just jump into that backyard football game or holiday 5K. Instead, gradually increase your activity level in the weeks leading up to the event.
- Take your time. Be sure to work slowly when doing chores outside, like shoveling snow or hanging lights, because your body is already working hard to stay warm.
Use these tips to prepare this season and make home the safest place of all for your family and guests. Here’s to a happy and safe holiday!