CHRISTMAS should be a time to be merry - but for some it's a time for a visit to the hospital.
As families break their regular habits for the holidays, it is often a momentary lapse of concentration that results in people being hurt or injured, says NSW Health Department and its come up with a list of "festive" injuries.
Falling off chairs and ladders while decorating for Christmas, eye injuries, poisoning and bites are high on the list of reasons many land in hospital.
Dr Kerry Chant, NSW Health's Chief Health Officer, said a simple slip from a ladder while placing Christmas lights up on the roof could result in devastation or death for families over Christmas when, really, they should be celebrating.
"Always make sure you have someone with you and don't stand on things which aren't stable enough to hold you.
"Definitely don't do anything that requires your full attention while you are under the influence of alcohol," Dr Chant said.
Parents are also warned to be aware of what their children are up to, as small toy parts, liquid from glow sticks, batteries and even high-pressured hoses and water guns could seriously hurt children.
Parents are also advised not to ride their children's Christmas toys.
"If you don't know how to ride a skateboard, it's going to hurt when you hit the ground," Dr Chant said.
For the elderly and those with chronic conditions, the message is: don't overdo it, as heart attacks are more common after an enormous Christmas lunch. They are also advised to make sure they have enough medication and an up-to-date copy of relevant prescriptions if travelling.
Health care providers such as GPs and Chemists may also have reduced hours. Make sure you check and have sufficient medications on hand for the entire Christmas period.
Elderly relatives may also not cope well with the usual heat over Christmas. If you are going away, make sure someone is available to check on them and help them if you are away.
Dr Chant said people shouldn't be fooled into thinking injuries and illness can't happen to them at Christmas.
"During the festive season, people do more than they normally would, consume more than they normally would, and take more risks than they normally would.
"It's important to be mindful of yourself, your family and your loved ones as it is often that momentary distraction when people suffer a fall, a burn, or something worse," Dr Chant said.
"A trip to the hospital emergency ward is not how anyone should spend Christmas."
Here's a list of common - and avoidable - reasons people end up in hospital.
- Trauma - Falls from dirt bike riding and outdoor activities, accidents and injuries in swimming pools. Also broken bones after falling off children's Christmas presents such as skateboards, scooters and mini segways.
- Alcohol related issues and intoxication - Watch your intake and drink plenty of water.
- Heart attacks - Particularly in the elderly and those with chronic conditions after a big lunch.
- Bites - From insects, spiders and snakes.
- Mental health - Christmas can be stressful and can be a trigger for depression and an increased risk in self harm.
- Slips and falls - Be careful when placing decorations in high places.
- Food poisoning - Salmonella and Campylobacter can be an issue if cool storage temperatures are not maintained. Keep raw and cooked foods separate and wash hands before and after handling food.
- Choking - Small/easily broken parts on toys stuffed in mouth or nose. Be careful of beads and detachable eyes or noses on stuffed toys, also be mindful of erasers, broken crayons and other small items.
- Strangulation - From strings/cords on toys. Try to keep them under 22cm long.
- Ear and eye injuries - Loud toys and high-pressure water guns shot too close to eyes and ears and small items in eyes and ears. Liquid leaking from glow sticks getting in the eyes.
- Poisoning - From batteries and liquids in toys and poorly maintained food.
- Burns - Pay attention while you are cooking and be aware when children are around. Don't leave children unattended near hot stoves, grills, barbecues and cooking appliances.
- Sunburn - Use sunscreen, a hat and protective clothing and stay in the shade during the hottest hours of the day.
- Animal bites - Be aware of children playing with pets, as even usually well-behaved pets may fear bite in situations they find overwhelming.