Keep the holidays safe & happy

T he holiday season is a good time to get together with friends, family, colleagues. It is also a time for sharing with the less fortunate. Here are a few tips to keep the times merry, avoiding hazards that can spoil the season. 

Kitchen safety. In many households, the kitchen is busier as food is prepared for holiday feasting. Many people also cook or bake goods to sell during Christmas for extra income. When schedules get hectic, exercise extra caution to prevent cuts, burns and scalds. Keep little ones from romping through the kitchen during busy times. If visitors insist on being in the kitchen while a party meal is being prepared, keep them out of the way. Review basic safety protocol with your staff. These include simple measures such as keeping the floor dry, wiping up spills immediately, to prevent slipping. Keep the knife in the drawer or knife block, where it will not be accidentally knocked off the counter and cause harm.

Overeating. Many look forward to delicious treats – and plenty of them – at parties, fiestas, noche buena and various gatherings. But overeating can lead to bad digestion, nausea, diarrhea. For those with health issues, the extra fat, protein and sugar can have serious repercussions. Eating more than you burn off also leads to weight gain. Carrying extra weight increases stress on the body’s muscles. While many swear they will work off the extra weight in the new year, it is easier said than done. An article “Short Term Overeating has Lasting Impact” on health website webmd noted that a study in the United States showed not all who ate more food for a month are able to shed those extra pounds successfully over the next 12 months.

 Alcohol. It is tempting to indulge in another glass of bubbly, beer or other alcoholic libations. Know your limits. Alcohol loosens inhibitions, and laughter may soon turn to brawls. As well, do not drink and drive. Be a friend, and offer to drive if your friend has had too much. Or catch a cab.

Fire, electrocution. Lights on the Christmas tree and the extra cooking may create fire hazards. Check that your fire extinguisher still works properly. Teach the staff to smother a grease or electrical fire (shut off the stove or power switch first), not douse it with water. A tree lit up with colorful twinkling lights is a wonderful sight. But check that the wiring is still sound before stringing up the lights. Shut off the lights if no one is in the room. Do not leave the lights on overnight. Many a house fire could have been prevented this way. In the kitchen, a rag too close to the flame, sparks landing on some grease nearby, all pose hazards. Do not leave the stove or oven unattended while food is simmering, baking or roasting. If the dish takes time to complete, set a timer and check it regularly until it is done.

Illness. As things get busy, take breaks to keep your pulse under control. As well, be aware that more germs are spread when people greet each other with hugs, kisses and hand shakes. Suggest doing high fives instead with like-minded people. Also carry wipes and sanitizers and use as needed.

Loneliness, Not everyone is blessed with large families or active social lives. For many who are alone, the merry-making may remind them of their own loneliness and lead to depression. One way to deal with this is to volunteer with charitable organizations. Many need a helping hand as they gear up for holiday giving, preparing meals and gifts for the poor. Or follow that old cliché: reach out and call someone. That other person may be just as happy to have some company.

Stress, When it gets so there is no time for a break, that is when you need one. Take a breather, go for a walk, swim, listen to music, catch a movie, anything that will help you unwind. Or just leave the phone off the hook, shut off your cell phone and sleep in for a day. When your plate is about as full as you want it to be, just say “no” when asked – by anyone! – to take on another task. This is about boundaries, and being good to yourself.

Food poisoning, Watch what you eat, and what you serve. Check the expiry date on labels of cans and jars. See that leftover food is stored away properly and not left to go rancid on the kitchen counter.

Pets. Those lovely red blooms on poinsettias gives a bright holiday touch to any room. But these are also poisonous, as are a variety of plants. Keep them away from curious pets (and children) that may decide to taste them. Be aware of food that is poisonous to animals, such as chocolate, coffee, onions, grapes and many others. If you are expecting visitors, keep shy, aggressive or high-strung pets in a quiet area away from the throng. It may be necessary as well to keep them restrained to prevent injuries.

Fireworks. This very traditional way of greeting the new year has become controversial of late. On new year’s eve, hospital emergency wards fill up with patients who have suffered injuries from firecrackers or respiratory problems because of the smog from exploding fireworks. As noise levels rise toward midnight on Dec. 31, many pet owners report animal distress – specially among dogs – whose hearing is very sensitive. Increasingly, establishments, such as shopping centers and hotels, offer fireworks displays. And increasingly, many people have chosen to watch these public displays rather than fire off their own at home.

The holiday season is a happy time. Make it so for yourself and others by practicing safety and consideration for everyone. — First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 29, no. 14 (December 20, 2016-January 16, 2017): 14-15.