Category Archives: General Health

Choking Hazards during the Holidays

The holidays are a wonderful time of the year, full of excitement, family, friends, and fun. Whether it is at an office Christmas party or gathered around the Thanksgiving dinner table, much of this time with loved ones centers around exchanging and opening gifts or eating delicious, home cooked meals. While it is certainly a very joyous time of the year, there are also extra precautions to take, during the holiday season to ensure safety and happiness for all, especially with young children.

Unfortunately, the holidays pose more choking hazards than at any other time of the year. Many of the most common choking hazards are surprising to a large number of people. While most of us commonly associate choking with food, the Consumer Product Safety Commission claims that there are many other threats to watch out for, ranging from children’s toys to holiday decorations around the house.

It is important to know common choking hazards and how to prevent choking from happening.

Holiday Object Hazards

Nothing is more exciting than watching children unwrap and enjoy new toys. There is a general rule of thumb, however, for what types of toys you should and should not let your child play with. If it is small enough to fit in an infant or toddler’s mouth, then it is deemed too small to permit them to have. Small objects, such as items found in dollhouses or miniature figurines, are high-risk toys that pose potential choking hazards because they are likely to block the airway. Toys that are made to be broken down into smaller parts or easily destroyed are not the best options for younger children.

Trees and Decorations

Not only are small toys a choking hazard to look out for during the holidays, light bulbs, tinsel, icicles, tree ornaments, or any relatively small decorations are also a threat to younger children. It is imperative to be careful to keep things picked up, because any small object can become a fatal choking hazard if it lands in the wrong hands.

The needles of holiday trees are considered highly dangerous choking hazards because they can cause painful lacerations in the mouths and throats of those who swallow them. Angel hairs, which are often made from finely spun glass, and ornament hangers are other objects found on a holiday tree which, if ingested, may cause cuts, irritation, and damage that could become fatal.

These threats are easily avoidable by checking warning labels, making sure not to leave small objects lying around the house, and making older children aware of choking risks. One can also use the paper towel test before letting any child have a toy. If it is small enough to fit inside a paper towel roll, small children should not be permitted to play with it.

Holiday Food Hazards

In adults, the most common cause of choking is talking while eating. While the holidays are naturally a social time of the year, and it is easy to become distracted, it is best to keep your thoughts to yourself until after safely swallowing your food. Some of the most common types of holiday foods that pose the highest choking threats are:

  • Hotdogs
  • Popcorn
  • Peanuts
  • Hard Candy
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Meats
  • Cheeses

Hotdogs are by far the most dangerous choking hazard, because of their texture and round shape that lets them lodge nicely in the airway. To prevent the risk of choking, cut hot dogs in half lengthwise so it is no longer tubular in shape.

Popcorn and Candy

Popcorn and peanuts should not be given to any child under the age of four. These small delicacies are often found in dishes around the house, or on holiday trays or spreads, and can easily be accessed by children. Make sure to keep popcorn and peanuts (while heart healthy) as far out of reach as possible.

All candy, whether gooey or hard, poses a choking hazard for anyone, although choking on hard candy is more prevalent than choking on a caramel. A way to reduce this choking risk is to make sure you are not moving when you are consuming candy.

Fruit

Like hotdogs, carrots, and grapes are choking hazards due to their round shape that easily clogs the airway. To be honest, any type of produce can easily obstruct the airway, so it is crucial to cut sections of any of these items, like apples or oranges, in half lengthwise to reduce the risk of choking.

Meats and Cheese

As popcorn and peanuts are often displayed, meats and cheeses can be found on holiday spreads and trays, too. Meats and cheeses are known for being easily lodged in the throat, so they should all be cut to proper portions. It is important to keep the meat and cheese trays away from small children.

Final Thoughts

While choking hazards may seem intimidatingly frequent and hard to control, they can easily be avoided by taking the proper precautions. Do not become ridden with anxiety during the holiday season, but rather prepare yourself by staying tidy, being careful to eat responsibly, and testing out toys before giving them to your children.

Alcohol Poisoning During the Holidays

Drinking alcohol to excess is the cause of about 88,000 deaths per year in the United States alone. Abusing alcohol can lead to violence, car accidents, and alcohol poisoning; all of which are potentially fatal consequences that will surely put a damper on what should be considered one of the happiest times of the year spent with loved ones.

In the United States, binge drinking has become a huge problem as millions of Americans admit to drinking too much in a short period of time. Binge drinking may be defined as four or more drinks on a single occasion for women and five for men. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 1 in 3 adults is an excessive drinker who mostly binge drinks.

While the holiday season is a time to celebrate and be joyful, it usually also brings about a decent amount of alcohol and higher tendencies for alcohol abuse. During the holiday season, alcohol is frequently more free flowing and visible for all. Because of this, there are higher chances at this time of year for binge drinking and its consequences, such as alcohol poisoning.

What Affects Your Tolerance for Alcohol

Age, gender, drinking experience, ethnicity, and the amount of food in your stomach can all affect how much alcohol is too much. An overdose of alcohol occurs at the point when an individual has a blood alcohol content level which is high, or sufficient enough, to cause impairments that may lead to harm. The severity of these overdoses vary. While one person may lack balance and slur their speech, another person may be struck with alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning, a deadly type of alcohol overdose, occurs when an individual continues to drink despite obvious and significant impairment. When this happens, the brain essentially shuts down basic life-support functions like heart rate, breathing, and temperature control.

Children

Shockingly and sadly, this does not only affect adults but also small children. Children are far more at risk for alcohol poisoning, when compared to adults, because of their weight. The Drug and Poison Information Center in Cincinnati claimed that during the holidays they see an increased number of calls stemming from alcohol poisoning in children. This is because adults tend to leave unfinished alcoholic drinks lying around the house within reach of small children, especially if their judgment is impaired by said alcohol.

The key to preventing fatal consequences caused by alcohol abuse is knowledge. Drinking responsibly and knowing the signs of alcohol poisoning can prevent deaths and provide a jollier holiday season for all.

Signs and Symptoms

According to Mayo Clinic, there are a variety of signs pointing toward alcohol poisoning, but it is not necessary for the victim to show all of them before seeking help. It is important to note that someone who is unconscious and cannot be awakened is at serious risk of death. The signs include:

  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Irregular or slow breathing
  • Mental confusion
  • Unconsciousness and is unable to be awakened
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Pale or blue skin

What You Should Do

If you suspect that an individual has alcohol poisoning after identifying some, or all, of the signs, you should be extremely aware that death is a possibility and call 911 immediately. It is extremely dangerous to assume that someone will be able to sleep off alcohol poisoning. The blood alcohol content of an individual can continue to rise in the body even while a person is unconscious. The alcohol continues to circulate through the bloodstream, awake or not. It is also a complete myth that coffee, walking, or taking a shower will reverse the effects of alcohol; these activities could make things worse.

What if You Don’t Do Anything?

There are many negative consequences a person could face after excessive drinking to the point of alcohol poisoning, especially if they are not medically treated. Things that can happen to a person if they are not treated in a timely and efficient manner include:

  • Severe dehydration caused by excessive vomiting
  • Dehydration which leads to seizures that may cause permanent brain damage or death
  • Choking on his or her own vomit
  • Breathing that becomes slow and eventually stops
  • Heart that beats irregularly and eventually stops
  • Hypothermia and Hypoglycemia, which leads to harmful seizures

Be Responsible

Although that extra cup of alcoholic eggnog might be tempting around the holiday season, be sure to drink responsibly no matter the time of year and of course continue to read our blog for more essential information. Knowledge of alcohol abuse and alcohol poisoning can help to keep you, your family, and your friends safe if anyone chooses to drink.