Articles

Hospitals: The “in” spots for holiday gatherings

There may be no place like home for the holidays, but many Americans spend the most festive days of the year in the very un-homelike atmosphere of a hospital room.

People who are sick and need round-the-clock care during the holidays are one thing, but are others just jonesing for cafeteria-made turkey and dressing? What else can explain the incredible number of seasonal accidents that reverberate across the nation like cosmic ho-ho-hos?

Sure, you may laugh later about the time Dad fell through the attic ceiling and crash-landed in the cranberry sauce. But it’s not so funny when the family’s trooping en masse to the local emergency room, leaving Aunt Myrna’s famous giblet gravy congealing on the table.  

If you think holiday falls are a rarity, think again. After analyzing data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System All-Injury Program, the Centers for Disease Control determined that over a three-year period, 17,465 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for holiday decorating-related tumbles.1 

Fires, falls and freak accidents, oh my!

For people who want to spend the jolliest season in the comfort of their own homes (or in the quasi-comfort of their in-laws’ places), extra caution is in order. Here are a few things you can do to ensure you’re not hopped up on painkillers while the presents are unwrapped:

  • Avoid ladders when possible — Consider hiring a professional to hang your holiday decorations. At the very least, make sure your ladder is on level ground and that a helper is holding it steady.  
  • Be careful with candles — Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are the top three days of the year for candle fires, which account for 45 percent of home-decoration fires. Candle fires result in an annual average of eight deaths, 54 injuries and $19.1 million in property damage. 2
  • Beware the Christmas tree — About 260 home fires begin each year with Christmas trees, resulting in 12 deaths, 24 injuries and $16.4 million in property damage. An additional 150 home fires begin with holiday and other decorative lighting, causing another eight deaths, 16 injuries and $8.9 million in property damage.2
  • Examine electrical cords — Sparks shooting from overloaded electrical sockets are staples of holiday comedies, but they’re not so funny in real life. About 4,000 injuries associated with extension cords are treated each year in hospital emergency rooms, with half involving fractures, lacerations, contusions or sprains from trips and falls. Thirteen percent of the injuries involve children under age 5, with electrical burns to the mouth accounting for 50 percent of those incidents.3
  • Protect kids from poison — Small children may think holiday plants look good enough to eat, but many are poisonous or cause severe stomach problems. Plants to beware of include mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherries and amaryllis. And holiday houseguests should keep purses, bags and coats containing medicine out of sight. Every year, nearly 60,000 children visit emergency rooms for unintentional drug poisonings.4   
  • Clean up the kitchen — Eating good food –— and eating a lot of it – is standard during the holidays. Just make sure it’s put away and properly refrigerated, because holiday giving should not include food-borne illnesses.
  • Put a cork in it — The holiday season is a time for merry-making, and for many Americans that means indulging in festive spirits such as beer, wine and alcohol. Unfortunately, it also means impaired drivers are sliding behind their wheels. About 40 percent of traffic fatalities during the Christmas and New Year periods result from crashes in which at least one driver has been drinking, compared to 28 percent of auto accidents during the rest of December.5

A safety net for the holidays and all year round

No matter how careful an individual tries to be, accidents happen. That’s why they’re called accidents. Access to insurance that helps employees with unexpected out-of-pocket medical costs might not be the most exciting gift, but it’s something that is valued by workers and their families throughout the year.

If you’re an employer, consider adding key voluntary policies to workers’ benefits packages. If you’re a broker, make it a point to discuss the value of voluntary insurance with existing accounts, as well as with accounts you hope to win. Here are some voluntary plans that will help employees if the unexpected occurs:

  • Disability insurance, which helps protect a worker’s most valuable asset – the ability to earn a living. Disability benefits pay a portion of an employee’s income while he or she is disabled and unable to work.     
  • Accident insurance, which helps workers with out-of-pocket expenses that can add up quickly after an unexpected health event. Benefits can be used to help pay for emergency treatment, hospital stays and medical exams, as well as for treatment-related transportation and lodging needs.
  • Specified health event insurance, which helps policyholders pay for treatment related to serious, life-altering events such heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure or third-degree burns.
  • Hospital confinement indemnity insurance, which can help hospitalized policyholders with out-of-pocket costs associated with serious accidents or illnesses.  

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a solicitation.

Sources

1 Centers for Disease Control, Fall-Related Injuries During the Holiday Season, accessed
Oct. 16, 2013 - http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5348a1.htm
2 Electrical Safety Foundation International, Decorating Statistics, accessed Oct. 16, 2013 - http://www.esfi.org/index.cfm/page/Decorating-Statistics/pid/12264
3 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Extension Cords Fact Sheet, accessed
Oct. 16, 2013 - http://cornellaging.org/gem/product_consumer_cords.html
4 National Safety Council, Poisoning, accessed Oct. 16, 2013 -  http://www.nsc.org/SAFETY_HOME/HOMEANDRECREATIONALSAFETY/POISONING/Pages/Poisoning.aspx
5 National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts, accessed Oct. 16, 2013 - http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810870.PDF