How decorating for Christmas sends people to the ER

Lights, trees and visiting Santa are all potential hazards

Christmas tree

HOLIDAY HAZARDS  Decorating for Christmas can be fun, but may also lead to injuries. A new study attempts to quantify those and other holiday-related mishaps. Catalog

Holiday season revelers beware. Lights, ornaments and Christmas trees may land you in the emergency room.

More than an estimated 173,000 people in the United States were injured by Christmas trees, lights and other holiday-related decorations from 2007 to 2016. Even visiting Santa resulted in an estimated 277 children being injured, scientists report online November 28 in Advances in Integrative Medicine. Researchers in Australia and Germany extrapolated from injury reports collected by hospitals that are part of the U.S. National Electronic Injury Surveillance System to estimate the number of Christmas-related injuries nationwide during the 10-year period.

Among the holiday hazards:

Oh no, Christmas tree!

Almost 23,000 people were estimated to have been injured by Christmas trees or stands. That includes 374 incidents reported to involve artificial Christmas trees, which corresponds to 17,928 injuries nationwide. Real trees accounted for 48 injury reports, or an estimated 2,216 injuries nationwide, mostly from knives and saws used to trim or cut down a tree. Stands and supports hurt 2,839 nationwide.

Decking the halls

More than 148,000 people got decked along with the halls, the researchers estimate. Christmas tree lights reportedly injured 715 people in the sample, corresponding to 31,855 injuries nationwide. Electrical decorations, excluding tree lights, are estimated to have harmed 36,054 people, while nonelectrical decorations injured 80,208. Men were more likely to be harmed by electrical lights and decorations, and women by nonelectrical decorations, the team found.

Old Saint Nick

Over the study period, three children had to go to the ER after falling off Santa’s lap, and, in 2014, one little girl ran away from Santa and cut her face on a shelf. All together, the researchers extrapolated that 277 children were injured nationwide while visiting Santa Claus. At least one adult was also injured, a 59-year-old woman who tripped over a rack while taking her grandchildren to see Santa.

Tina Hesman Saey is the senior staff writer and reports on molecular biology. She has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University.

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