The hidden dangers of Christmas

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Cat playing with red Christmas ball with blur Christmas tree with lights in background.

Dodgy Christmas decorations, kitchen nightmares, accidents on the road; Christmas is time filled with potential dangers.

Whether you're merry or manic, Christmas can be hazardous. There are some surprising dangers lurking, ready to spoil your day just when you least expect it.

We're a finance website, so plenty of our tips and warnings are to do with avoiding making a claim on your home insurance. After all, insurance costs are rocketing and making a claim one year can really push up the cost when you come to renew.

But while we don't want you to drive up your insurance premiums, we also don't want any festive trips to A&E.

And sadly, that's what happens for a great many Christmas revellers, or even worse. Data from the Office for National Statistics collected between January 1995 and December 2005 shows that the death rate soars during winter periods. This isn't just down to the cold weather or even drunken mishaps; there are additional hazards to be aware of.

So read on for our tips on avoiding Christmas's hidden dangers, both to your home and your health.

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

Here's a genuinely alarming stat. Every year, about 1,000 people are injured by their Christmas tree, according to the NHS.

That's usually while they're fitting stars and lights to the top of tree and fall, but there's also the risk of electric shocks from poorly-made lights. There have also been cases of children swallowing the little light bulbs.

On top of that, we tend to cover our trees in attractive festive figures. These may look like toys but they're not, and so they don't have to conform to child-specific safety standards.

And if trees are damaging some people's health, that's nothing to the scores of vacuum cleaners they usher through the pearly gates each year.

When you come to taking your tree down, try to pick or sweep up as many needles as you can before hoovering. Vacuum cleaners can be pricey and you've got better things to buy in the January sales.

Driving home for Christmas...

As people rush to reach loved ones, the roads can become far more hazardous this time of year.

High numbers of cars on the roads, bad weather conditions, more people risking driving under the influence; you can see why it's more dangerous out there.

To stay safe, check the Met Office for any weather warnings before you set out and give yourself extra time for your journey, so you're not in a hurry and tempted to speed.

Going away this Christmas? Make sure you have travel insurance

As we dream by the fire

Did you know you're 50% more likely to die in a house fire during the festive months? I realise that's a bit bleak, but being aware of it will help you take precautions.

Between open fires, candles and the chaos of a Christmas kitchen, there's a lot more potential for things to go wrong.

Make sure you extinguish all candles and festive lights before going to bed – put them out before you get too merry if you're worried that you'll forget after a drink.

Never position a candle near your tree, curtains or any soft furnishings. A sitting room can go from smouldering to entirely ablaze within a frighteningly short period of time.

Of course, naked flames are just one reason for a seasonal increase in house fires. Dodgy Christmas lights and overloaded plug sockets are another common cause.

Check the wiring on your lights and replace any that you've had a long time; newer lights will comply with stricter safety standards.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...

Another part of the home that becomes more dangerous at Christmas is the kitchen. Amateur chefs knocking back a bit too much bucks fizz, sugared-up kids running in and out of the kitchen, distractions enticing the cook into another room...

Check your fire alarm is working and keep the cooker clear of items like tea towels and paper napkins. Ban kids from the room while you're cooking if you can and do as much prep in advance as possible so that you're not too flustered on the day.

Above all, stay alert in the kitchen and consider saving that extra glass or three for when you're washing up.

You better watch out...

In the chaos of Christmas, it's easy to let your house become more hazardous than normal, especially to younger children.

Watch out for small parts which could be choke hazards and check that toys are age-appropriate for kids. I have a hidden pile of toys people have given my son that aren't suitable until he turns three.

Falls are also one of the most common accidents, and can cause real damage to both you and your possessions. Make sure stairs are free of obstacles and clutter, and that spills are wiped up straight away.

With so many lights and toys to plug in, be careful not to leave wires trailing across the floor where they might cause trips.

It's also a good idea to have scissors handy to open packaging, so you don't leave a knife lying around. But don't be tempted to use those scissors to open up toys needing batteries, keep a screwdriver handy too.

According to the NHS, parents stabbing themselves with scissors while using them as a make-shift screwdriver is a very common Christmas accident.

Unseasonably alarming?

We're not suggesting you spend your Christmas week worrying about death or damage to property.

Clearly most people have a lovely time and the worst crisis they face is a few bad presents.

But being aware of the additional risks associated with Christmas helps you manage those dangers.

It also gives you a chance to prepare an action plan in advance and check your home insurance policy, just in case the worst does happen.

We hope that the worst thing that happens to you this year is a bad Christmas tie. Preferably one that plays tinny merry music and flashes.

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Budget Christmas presents for family and friends


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