Deck the Halls with Care this Season
Christmas has long been the time of year when Kiwis let their hair down, slip on their best pair of jandals and shrug off the small stuff with a cursory “no worries.” According to annual statistics published by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), we should, in fact, be worried. Beneath all the tinsel, carefully wrapped presents and summer festivities, there is a frenzy of injuries just waiting to happen.
I have taken it upon myself to expose the very, real dangers of Christmas with the hopes of being a guiding light in these uncertain times for at least one of you. Your next emergency department visit could be determined from a hot chip or a furry friend, so be warned. This article aims to minimise, isolate or eliminate your risk of harm whilst examining some of the more unusual interests we Kiwis have.
In 2015, $2.8 billion was paid by ACC to injured New Zealanders, to support a total of nearly four million claims. Of those, ACC funded a festive 59 claims for injuries caused by new electric hoverboards, 61 claims for “new year, new me” pole-dancing related injuries and 27 claims for a nibble or nudge from an Alpaca. Yes, you read that right: Alpacas were officially more dangerous than sharks in 2015! If this wasn’t enough, some people got so into the holiday spirit that they simply failed to get a hot chip or toasted marshmallow into their mouth, costing the country $12,312 alone.
In 2016, there were eight wine-cork claims, the majority of which were from popping the cork ... and accidentally hitting someone in the face or eye. 137 claims for Christmas tree-related injuries whereby someone was squashed or fell while decorating the tree, with 45 others receiving injuries from getting tangled in Christmas lights. Likewise, there were seven "roast-dinner" claims, unusually of which none were associated with the actual cooking of the said meal, but mainly trips and falls.
In 2017, we tried to smarten up - tried being the operative word. More than 4,000 New Zealanders were injured on Christmas Day in 2017 alone, accounting for $3,628,574 worth of ACC claims. One in 10 claims were alcohol-related, with a large proportion of claims caused by water sports, swimming and fishing. Presents were the culprit in 20 claims, which saw people cut themselves using knives to hastily open gifts. Some un(lucky) devils strained their backs while trying to position gifts of pronounced proportion.
So what can you do to stay safe this holiday season and avoid becoming a statistic?
Realise that the more you drink, the higher your risk of injury. Make sure to eat plenty of food and pace yourself with water or other non-alcoholic drinks where possible. Red noses look best on Rhudolf (a certain reindeer) and clowns.
Use a step-ladder to hang decorations - not a chair, or worse still, a chair on a table. A wide base offers better support and lowers your risk of falling. Ensure your Christmas tree has a sturdy base to stop it toppling over. If your tree has lights, run the power cord to it along the wall, not across the floor to prevent trips/falls.
Buy small gifts for family and friends to prevent back pain/strains from lifting/carrying (you are only thinking of them…. and your wallet).
Commit to doing your daily vocal exercises by singing along to Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You” to ensure that that marshmallow or hot chip reaches its intended destination. And last but not least, learn to speak Alpaca - this may save your life.
Should you come off second-best this holiday season, get yourself into your friendly Habit Physiotherapist. We'll give help to sort you out, and you don't even need to bring a gift.
Note: Habit Clinics operate on reduced hours on public holidays. Please see our holiday opening hours. In case of emergency, you should dial 111.
This article was written by Kate Clayton, a senior physiotherapist at Habit Petone in Wellington