It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Tinsel glitters, bells jingle, fairy lights twinkle. The smell of cinnamon and clove permeates the house. The last thing we want is a Christmas-related injury, yet over 80,000 people in the UK end up in A&E over the Christmas period. We love Christmas here at White Cross Training. So we have specially created this guide to help you identify and reduce five common risks. We give first aid advice for each one, just in case!
There is a higher risk of burns and scalds happening over the festive period due to cooking, lighting candles and decorative lights.
- Designate a Head Chef and nominate others to support them. “Yes, Chef!”
- Communicate well in the kitchen: “I’m coming through with a hot pan. Stand clear.”
- Keep children and pets out of the kitchen as well as anyone who is not directly helping with the food prep.
- Be careful basting the turkey or adding potatoes to the roasting tin. 1 in 10 people have spilled hot fat on themselves when cooking.
- Avoid drinking alcohol while you are cooking; you are more likely to have an accident.
- Be careful if you decide to roast chestnuts on an open fire. 600,000 people have burned themselves doing exactly this.
- Use LED candles or lights to create a festive atmosphere rather than candles.
- If you must use a candle, never leave it unattended.
Burns need to be cooled immediately under cool, clean, running water for at least 20 minutes. If the skin is still very hot, you may need to repeat this until it feels cool to the touch. Call an ambulance (999) if the burn is to the face, airway, hands or genitals, or if it’s large or deep. If you’re not sure how severe a burn is, or you’re at all worried, get medical help immediately.
Cling film can be used as a burn dressing (removing the first layer to keep it clean) but it must be covered loosely to allow for swelling. You may wish to keep burn gels or dressings in your first aid kit, but these are not a substitute for the initial cooling.
Choking can occur during festive meals, especially if people are eating quickly or consuming small, round objects like sweets or nuts. No wants to choke on a turkey bone! Throw in a Snowball or two with some particularly funny Christmas cracker jokes (!) and choking may be more likely that usual.
- Keep mealtimes relaxed and easy.
- Ensure young children eat at the table rather than while playing.
- Take small bites and chew well.
- Have a glass of water at the table and sip a little water if you notice your mouth is dry.
When you think that someone is choking, ask them. If they can answer, encourage them to cough. Do not pat them on the back.
If they can’t breathe or can just manage a high-pitched wheeze, there is something blocking their windpipe. Tell them you know how to help them and ask if that’s okay. It is better to get permission if possible.
Start with up to 5 back slaps between the shoulder blades with enough force to dislodge what is choking them. Support their shoulders so they don’t fall. Each time, check to see if the object has come out and listen to hear if they are breathing again.
If necessary, administer up to 5 abdominal thrusts just above the belly button, again checking to see if the item has become dislodged. On infants, chest thrusts should be performed instead.
Keep alternating between 5 back slaps and 5 abdominal thrusts until the object becomes dislodged or the person becomes unconscious. At this point, call 999 and explain what has happened. Check the person’s mouth to see if there is anything you can easily remove, but be wary about lodging it deeper in. You will need to perform CPR. This may dislodge the item.
Injuries due to slipping, tripping or falling are more common during winter due to slippery surfaces, especially when people are rushing to get things done or celebrating with alcohol.
- Get your path pressure-washed. It will make it less slippery and look cleaner too.
- Do not rush while doing your Christmas shopping. 700,000 people have been injured in a sales rush during the festive season. Ensure your shoes have good grip and consider going at quieter times, starting earlier in the year or shopping online.
- Do not overreach when getting your Christmas decorations out of the loft. Always have someone to pass the boxes down to. 1 in 50 people have fallen out of the loft while getting decorations down.
- Be careful putting your decorations and Christmas lights up. Invest in a stepladder and don’t rush. 2.6 million people have fallen off a stool or ladder while hanging up their decorations.
- Use a stepladder to put your decoration on the top of your Christmas tree rather than over-reaching. 1,000 people each year are injured by their Christmas tree!
- Keep the place tidy and organised.
- Make sure you can see over those piles of Christmas gifts!
- Keep extra people out of the kitchen. If there are any spills, clean them up straight away. Slips can be a serious hazard when there are sharp knives and a hot oven.
- Keep the landing light on if guests are not familiar with your house layout.
Avoid moving someone who has fallen from a height unless they are not breathing and need CPR or they are in immediate danger such as on a road. If they unconscious, you need to put them in the recovery position.
Assess them for injury by completing a head-to-toe survey. You will need to physically check them for bleeding and injury.
Call 999 or 112 if someone has fallen from a height or may have injured their head, spine or pelvis. If someone is particularly frail or elderly, you may need to seek help for lesser falls.
Treat any bleeds as you would normally.
Treat suspected shock by raising the feet. If there is no obvious bleeding, suspect internal bleeding and ensure the emergency services are aware.
If you suspect a broken bone, the person may be seen quicker if the person can be safely transported to an Urgent Treatment Centre or Minor Injuries Unit rather than a large hospital with an Emergency Department. The NHS Quicker app will list current waiting times at hospitals in your area.
Astonishingly, there is a 37% increase in heart attacks at this time of year, which is at its peak the evening after the main celebrations. Here in the UK, that’s around 10pm on Christmas Day.
- Age – this is increased if you are older, especially over 75 years old.
- Pre-existing conditions – especially diabetes and coronary artery disease.
- Emotional stress
- Physical activities – it can be all too easy to start a cleaning marathon, attempt to do all your Christmas shopping at once or get roped into doing something a bit too exerting. Be careful if you move furniture or lift a 30lb turkey into the oven!
- Lifestyle changes – overindulging in alcohol and food and then sitting down while you are offered even more.
- Putting off getting help – people may put off getting help because they don’t want to worry anyone or ‘ruin’ Christmas.
- Pallor: their face may be ashen or pale
- Pain: they may clutch their chest and tell you about a crushing pain to their chest, stomach and down one arm.
- They may sweat.
- They may struggle to breathe normally.
- They may describe a feeling of doom or hopelessness.
Sit the person down in the W position. Give them 300 mg of aspirin to chew.
Call 999 and tell them that you suspect the person is having a heart attack.
The person may have heart medication such as a spray and if so, you could encourage them to take it. If the spray relieves their symptoms, it is angina rather than a heart attack.
The last thing we want to do is poison our guests, but unfortunately, it does happen. There is a higher risk than usual over Christmas.
- Ensure you allow enough time to defrost the turkey. With a large bird, this can take several days in the fridge.
- Check the cooking times for the turkey and plan the rest of the meal around it.
- Avoid cross contamination by ensuring that anything that has touched the turkey – especially your hands – is washed thoroughly. Keep raw meats, fish and shellfish well wrapped and in the lowest part of your fridge.
- Bear in mind that when the oven is full, food can take longer to cook so allow some extra cooking times.
- Don’t leave the Christmas Day or Boxing Day buffet out for too long, definitely not more than an hour. Cover and refrigerate anything that might spoil.
- Christmas food poisoning is such a common issue that the government has guidance on how to cook the perfect turkey. https://www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/christmas-food-hygiene
Keep the person hydrated. Water or diluted squash should help.
Keep them out of the kitchen.
Keep them away from other people in case they have a contagious bug like Norovirus.
Provide plenty of toilet paper, a bucket or ensure they have access to their own toilet.
If you think they have a bug like Norovirus, ensure that no one else uses the same towels as them and that anything they have touched has been cleaned thoroughly. Keep them isolated as this is a highly contagious illness. You may wish to send other relatives home, especially if they are elderly or vulnerable.
Sickness and/or diarrhoea can generally be treated at home, but may require extra help the person is elderly, vulnerable or cannot keep down enough fluids to keep them hydrated. Your pharmacy should be able to provide an oral rehydration solution (ORS) and explain how to use it.
When they feel like eating, start with bland foods like rice, bread or banana.
So, as promised, here at White Cross Training, we have covered the top five injury risks this Christmas and how you might avoid them. On top of that, we reminded you of the first aid knowledge you would need to help your relatives if something happened – despite your best efforts. We hope that you feel more aware of how to keep your family safe this Christmas.
HOW TO AVOID
FIRST AID ADVICE JUST IN CASE
Cutting your hand while chopping a swede or opening presents
|Large swedes are tricky to get through. Buy a smaller swede and use a large, sharp knife. Dry the knife, the swede and your hands before starting. Use a peeler to peel it rather than a knife.|
Use scissors to open presents (but keep them out of reach of small children!)
|The first aider should wear gloves. Hold the cut together, applying a little pressure. Raise the incision above the heart. Use a plaster for a finger and dressing/ bandage for the hand. To help reduce blood flow, consider supporting the hand in an elevated sling. If a cut is very deep, it may need stitching or butterfly plasters. Get it checked out to be sure.|
Dropping a frozen turkey on your toes and breaking them
|Place the turkey into a deep baking tray and carry that. Two can carry it together if it’s really heavy! A couple of kitchen towels between the turkey and the tray could reduce any slipping, but remember to remove them before cooking.||If you believe you have broken your toes, carefully remove any shoes as swelling may make that harder later.|
REST – sit down
ICE – keep them cool to reduce inflammation
COMFORT – A small bandage or splint may help protect the bones from further movement, but toes can be hard to work with due to their size.
ELEVATION – Lift the foot so that it is above waist level and support it with a cushion.
If you suspect broken bones, get checked out by a medical professional.
Small toys stuck up a child’s nose
|Small bricks or tiny toys are not suitable for very young children so keep them away from them. They are also a choking risk. Children should be supervised while playing, especially with new toys.||Be wary of accidentally pushing the object higher up their nose. Cover the other nostril and try to get them to snort it out.|
Child may have swallowed a battery
|These tend to be the tiny coin batteries. Keep them out of children’s reach.||If you believe that your child has swallowed a battery, do not wait – even if you are not sure. Within 15 minutes, a chemical reaction begins that can cause burns and tissue damage. Severe damage, including life-threatening injury, can happen within two hours. Call 999 and get your child to hospital as fast as possible.|
|Fires are 50% more likely at this time of year compared to any other. Practice fire safety, especially around the tree lights. Do not overload sockets. Water the Christmas tree to make it less flammable, but unplug the lights first; people die every year suffering an electric shock while watering their Christmas tree. Check your smoke alarm works and has a fresh battery.||If you have a house fire, remember that smoke rises so staying low can help you to breathe. Your priority is to get out safely and call 999 or 112. Anyone who has breathed in smoke will need to be checked out by medical staff.|
Water your Christmas tree to prevent it from becoming too flammable. Here’s what could happen if your tree did catch fire after you had forgotten to water it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMtjGfr0tYs
Want to be more confident with your first aid knowledge and practice? Book a first aid course today with White Cross Training.