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Staying clear of Santa might keep you out of the hospital

December 27, 2018

This time of year, thousands of people in the U.S. go to the emergency room for holiday-related injuries like burns from electrical decorations and falling off Santa’s lap.

A study, published recently in the Advances in Integrative Medicine, that looked at the prevalence of Christmas-related injuries in the U.S. from 2007 to 2016 found that 277 children were hurt during interactions with Santa by falling off his lap or after running away in fear.

An estimated 36,054 injuries were caused by electrical decorations, and about 240,626 injuries were due to sleds and toboggans, the study found.

Separately, data released this month from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows 18,400 holiday decorating-associated injuries from November 2016 through January 2017, the most being falls, lacerations and strains or sprains.

The uptick in injuries this time of year is due, in part, to people having more idle time and doing activities that aren’t their normal routine, said Robert Sidman, vice president of medical affairs for Hartford HealthCare, East Region. The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich is part of that network.

Sidman said there’s also an uptick in injuries around other holidays, such as the Fourth of July, and around the first snow of the year.

Oliver Mayorga, chief medical officer at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London, pointed out that many people in southeastern Connecticut like to cut down their own Christmas trees, and that usually leads to more emergency room visits.

The study found an estimated 20,144 injuries associated with Christmas trees — 17,928 from artificial trees and 2,216 from real ones — were treated by ER staff.

Mayorga said emergency room staff at L +M also treat patients injured as a result of putting up lights or decorations.

Christmas Day itself tends to be quiet, both Mayorga and Sidman said. If the injury is not too serious, people will wait to go to the ER. A similar trend is observed on Thanksgiving, Mayorga said.

In addition to an increase in injuries, there’s also an increase in mental illness this time of year.

“Folks who are connected with family are quite happy to be off but those with less good social networks are quite sad,” Sidman said. “Maybe somebody lost a loved one and this is the first Christmas without that loved one.”

j.bergman@theday.com

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