HEALTH

A look at how the holiday season can affect health

BY Andrew Schmertz, Correspondent |

It’s the time of year that any number of holiday mishaps could put kids in the hospital.

“The injuries that we see are cold injuries and hypothermia. We see bone injuries, we see injuries because of toys and candies, especially during the holiday season. Those are common in children,” said Dr. Pshant Chutke, assistant medical director for pediatric emergency medicine at Saint Peter’s University Hospital.

Chutke says parents should be especially aware of younger kids playing with older kids’ toys.

“Most of the kids choke on plastic toys, marbles and foreign bodies that get stuck in the mouth,” said Chutke.

Of course, kids also break bones, are hurt in car accidents and get sick more often during the holidays. And parents, try as they may, seem to be unprepared for what winter brings each year.

“Though winter comes every year, most of the parents are not prepared for that. This time of the year is more important to prevent hypothermia and cold injuries. Parents have to be prepared for that in their homes, their cars and traveling in the cold weather,” continued Chutke.

This includes making sure you have medicine for children in case you become homebound in a storm, especially for children who have chronic illnesses. Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Fire, sometimes caused by faulty electrical wires near Christmas trees, proves a killer every year. And to avoid common winter illnesses, wash your hands more often.

“Through March, we’re very busy. Double the average,” said Chutke.

Broken bones are not the only things that break the holiday spirit. Death rates go up during the holidays. Researchers speculate that stress plays a major role in that.

Shauna Moses, with the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, says people who suffer from depression are most at risk.

“Usually a lot of invitations for social gatherings and a lot of people feel under pressure to meet all of those invitations and obligations, and it’s really important to set realistic limits just like it would be for anytime of the year for the sake of your mental health,” she said.

Some injuries are truly unique to this time of year. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says Christmas decorations are among the leading causes of people ending up in the hospital. People poke themselves in the eye from Christmas tree needles, they injure themselves falling off ladders and they electrocute themselves turning on the lights. So be careful out there so you don’t end up in the hospital.