'Christmas Perils' Preoccupy Washington Post

Thank goodness for the Washington Post. If not for the paper's Dec. 22 Health & Science section, readers might not know about the myriad “Christmas Perils” they face this time of year. But with its big, color-illustrated article, they'll be sure to only kiss under the mistletoe, not eat it.

The Post's Rachel Saslow set up the piece, writing, “Most people picture an idyllic Christmas morning scene: sipping eggnog around the decorated tree while opening gifts from Ma and Pa.” But potential tragedies – severed digits, unpleasant gastro-intestinal episodes, even love handles – lurk on the periphery of this domestic portrait. In Saslow's words, “Not to be too bah humbug about it, but what if you get sick from that eggnog?”

Indeed. The Post listed several holiday hazards, gave stats about the risks, and ways to prevent them. In the case of that suspect eggnog, the Post admitted, “There are no specific eggnog-related data, but the CDC estimates that one in 50 consumers could be exposed to a contaminated egg each year.” But if you cook the egg, no harm no fowl. So gently heat your eggnog to 160F. And “If you're baking cookies, don't lick the spoon if there are eggs in your batter.”

Saslow's article also advised readers not to eat holly, mistletoe or poinsettias. Not even tossed with balsamic vinaigrette and tomato. Don't drive drunk. Children under 12 should wear helmets when sledding, and they probably shouldn't sled drunk, either. Don't place your Christmas tree near a heat source (nor, presumably, should you soak it in kerosene and then do some welding near it.) You probably won't gain more than a pound during the holidays, but you may not lose that pound in spring and summer.

And, perhaps most valuable of all, the paper took on “Package-Opening Injury,” noting that some 6,000 Americans a year “end up in the emergency room each year because of packaging-related injuries.” If Amazon.com's “frustration-free packaging” isn't an option, “take a deep breath (despite the excitement or anger). Then remember these tips from the Pennsylvania Medical Society: Avoid opening difficult packages in a crowded area, do not use your legs to keep the product stable and use blunt-tipped scissors.”

So we've been warned not just by the Post, but by the Pennsylvania Medical Society. We get drunk on rancid eggnog, eat mistletoe and use blowtorches to open stubborn packaging in crowded rooms at out own risk.

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