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Pitfalls of Holiday Parties

The holidays are a time of connecting with family and friends for conversation, laughter, great food and good cheer. However, getting injured at a holiday party or having a medical emergency is no laughing matter. The following are some of the most common problems, accidents, and medical problems that can arise during the holiday season.

Food Poisoning

Few things ruin the appetite faster than a case of food poisoning. Food-borne illnesses affect one in six Americans each year, resulting in the deaths of 3,000 and hospitalizing 128,000. While it is unpleasant to talk about or think about, especially during the festive holiday season, awareness can go a long way in avoiding this holiday medical mishap. If you are the host or hostess, never leave perishable foods out for too long on the counter or buffet table. Be sure meat dishes are adequately cooked, and serve hot foods at optimal temperatures. Perishable cold dishes should be kept cool on a bed of ice or in a cooling tray. Hosts and hostesses should take steps to offer healthy choices for guests as well, including vegetables, fruit and low-salt options.

Cuts, Scrapes, Burns, & Bruises

Does your house pose an injury danger to people who might be distracted, engaged in conversations, or swept up in the holiday cheer? Before hosting that holiday get-together, check your home for sharp edges, tripping hazards and fire hazards, and make any necessary adjustments. Address fire hazards from candles, holiday decorations and electrical items. This is especially important if small children will be attending the event. Interestingly, adult males tend to be 40 percent more likely to be injured during the holidays than females.

Alcohol Abuse

There are well over 2,000 deaths from alcohol poisoning in the U.S. each year, and many of them occur around the holidays. The good cheer of this season often compels people to drink more than they normally do. While toasting with friends promotes a celebratory vibe, numerous issues can arise if alcohol is consumed to excess. Errors in judgment, impaired cognitive functioning, and doing or saying something embarrassing are just a few possibilities.

At a minimum, drinking too much alcohol can lead to a hangover the next day. However, serious incidents of alcohol poisoning requiring hospitalization are higher during the holidays, as is drunk driving. Around 30 percent of all auto accidents are alcohol-related, and speeding is a factor in at least 30 percent of traffic fatalities. The best bet is to encourage everyone to pace themselves, alternate each drink with a glass of water, and be sure to have a designated driver.

Slips, Trips, & Falls

Another common injury that can occur at parties is guests slipping on a slippery floor, a spilled drink, or a dropped piece of food. Slips and falls can also occur on icy sidewalks and porches outside the home or party venue. Party hosts should be sure to salt or sand their porches and walkways, and warn guests about potentially slick areas in the party area.

If the room is dimly lit and the guests have been enjoying a few holiday cocktails, they are far more likely to trip and fall at the party. Hosts can minimize this risk by ensuring that there is no extraneous clutter around the home or venue. Less is more, and a minimalist look is both stylish and safe.

Allergic Reactions

Another potential risk from the cuisine served at holiday parties is the possibility that someone will have an allergic reaction. Common food allergies include peanuts and seafood. However, milder but still unpleasant reactions can be caused by hot or spicy foods and acidic fruits and vegetables. While hosts can do the courtesy of labeling each dish, holiday guests should also be proactive in inquiring about the food served and verifying its ingredients.


While food poisoning is far more unpleasant, overindulging in the rich, calorie-infused foods available around the holidays can cause blood sugar spikes, high glucose, lethargy and weight gain. These are not usually medical emergencies, but overindulgence can lead to them if it isn't balanced out with healthier eating in the days and weeks after.

Oversights & Misunderstandings

While not a medical issue, not respecting the preferences and wishes of guests can lead to discomfort of another kind. If you are the party host, take steps to understand and honor where each guest is coming from. From cultural and ethnic differences to food preferences to general preferences, strive to make your party an event where everyone feels respected and welcome. Guests should also strive to be flexible and understanding when attending a holiday party.

Damaged Reputations

Overindulgence in alcohol can also lead to behaviors and scenarios that partygoers may come to regret later. While having fun is what parties are all about, attendees should be aware that in our current culture of cell phone cameras and social media, if you end up wearing a lampshade (or worse), the Internet will probably find out about it.

Bruised Egos

Another hazard of holiday parties is accidentally (or deliberately) insulting someone. This can occur if someone starts gloating a little too much that their candidate won the recent election, or if they've had too much to drink. It can also occur if a host decides not to (or forgets to) invite someone to the party. Party planners should strive to avoid bruising any egos this holiday season - or any time of year.

The holidays are festive and fun, but they are also a time when injuries - both medical and emotional - can sneak up on people. However, awareness is key, and watching out for these 10 potential holiday injuries can help everyone to stay safe and have a happy holiday season. Martha Stewart once said, "The more you adapt, the more interesting you are." This applies to both how you physically set up your home for a party, and in cultivating a warm, open and inclusive environment for all who attend. If in doubt, seek help and insights about holiday safety from a trusted source.