3 lesser-known Christmas hazards

Mistletoe: Enjoy the benefits, avoid the risks

While love’s urge and romantic legends persist, mistletoe remains a no-no for ingestion. While eating the kiss-of-death greenery probably won’t kill you – an older study reviewed 92 reports of ingestion and only a small number had any symptoms – keep it away from children and pets.  Ingestions may lead to some stomach distress, a slowed heartbeat or other reactions. On the bright side, there have been several small studies looking at mistletoe for reducing the side effects of chemotherapy, with mildly optimistic results.

Holiday surprises that shock

With a string of lit outdoor Christmas bulbs dangling around my waist, I was set to climb the evergreen when an electrical jolt bit my fingers. The cause was a slight break in the plastic cord causing me to touch live wires. Many mistakes could be noted here, but the one to address for now is avoiding electrocution. Several factors determine the degree of an electrical shock: the amps of the unit, the flow of current, the length of time with contact, the resistance of the body (often based on size) and even the amount of moisture in the atmosphere. Physics teaches us that the average adult can safely tolerate about one second of a shock with a typical household current of 110-220 volts. Tolerate for a second I did, but it was still unpleasant. If shocked, the general rule is that if there are no marks left by the shock and the person is acting normal (not dizzy or pale), it’s likely no harm was done. Checking those electrical cords before plugging them in is a good habit to adopt.

Reds, greens and blues

No one is surprised that in the midst of the lights and colors of the holidays some people experience sadness. The season is built around happy relationships and times of joy, so when we have memories that don’t match the season, the blues can overcome us. A loss of a loved one, lost wages, arguments and loneliness can make our emotions cave in. If the depression is serious, one should not hesitate to seek help from a clinician, as counseling and medication can help many people through the holidays. Many of us, however, just need to step up on our own to bring times of joy to the forefront. Why, helping others even benefits ourselves. Studies show that young people are less likely to abuse drugs or perform poorly in school if they are helping others, and helpers of all ages experience an improved psychological outlook and often better physical health. The fun part is practicing this with strangers (you never know who you might reach). How about these ideas to get us started:

  • Buying the car’s meal behind us in the drive-thru.
  • Raking leaves or shoveling snow for a neighbor without being asked.
  • Leaving a sack of groceries at the door of a single parent.
  • Stopping by to talk – and listen – to an elder who’s alone.

This is one everybody can have a part in. See what you can do to help keep the holidays healthy for everyone around you.