🎶 Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Lumbago pains that will make you perspire
And lacerations on your toes 🎶
Each year, people head to emergency rooms with holiday-related injuries by the thousands — if the data kept by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System is any guide. The NEISS, part of the government’s Consumer Product Safety Commission, tracks injury reports related to consumer products at a representative sample of 100 hospital emergency rooms nationwide. Those numbers help give Americans a better sense of how many small objects end up in children’s noses. When BuzzFeed’s Jeremy Singer-Vine mentioned that the NEISS has specific codes for Christmas-related injuries in his Data is Plural newsletter, I had to take a look and categorize them for myself. And, yes, some ornaments did find their way into nostrils.
In 2014, the NEISS logged 446 injuries related to holiday decorations, and 89 percent of them were linked to Christmas. (Hold your grievances: The NEISS makes sure to note that “poles, Festivus use” would be included in the “seasonal decorations, excluding Christmas” category.)
Before you start to wonder if, like the Grinch, you must find some way to stop Christmas from coming, let me offer you some reassurance. It’s not always Christmas that’s causing the injury — sometimes it’s user error. I’m not really inclined to blame the string of lights for the groin injury that a 42-year-old woman sustained when she tripped over her dog while hanging her lights (who I’m assuming was dressed up as Max from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”).
Based on the injury reports, you’re probably safe for a little while if you make it to Christmas Eve. But the risk grows when it’s time to take your decorations down. Nearly half of all Christmas-related injuries (47 percent) were the result of a fall while decorating or putting decorations away. People fell off of ladders, roofs and stepstools; they also tripped over lights and other decorations that were on the floor. (So, yes, Dad, you were right, and I will be very careful when I’m standing on a chair to unwind the garlands after the holiday.) Back, shoulder and wrist strains made up an additional 16 percent of Christmas injuries, acquired when revelers did things like reach to get an angel at the very top of a tree.
Then there are the dangers that last for all 12 days of Christmas. Broken ornaments, lights, ceramic figures and other shattered decorations accounted for 9 percent of injuries. Another 9 percent of injuries were caused when decorations fell on merrymakers or when children pulled decorations (or even whole trees) down on their heads — exactly what my little brother spent all of 1993’s Christmas trying to do.
So, after the eggnog’s been drunk, the Midnight Mass has been offered, and the presents have been opened, maybe put down some crash mats before you undeck the halls.