The Holiday Season Is Joyous, But It Can Mask Hidden Dangers

’Tis the season for joy, cheer, laughter, friends and family. However, there is a dark side to the holiday season that is relatively easy to safeguard against.

In a time where fire safety has been in the headlines — from a party turned to tragedy in Oakland, Calif, to deadly wildfires in Tennessee that authorities believe were started either intentionally or accidentally by humans — make sure that fire safety is a priority in your own home. Did you know that the holiday season is the deadliest time of year for house fires? From holiday candles to dry trees and wreaths, fire threats are everywhere.

Home is where the heart is, and where many of us will spend our holidays. However, beware the many hidden dangers. Make sure that all candles and hot items are not within reach of small children. Remember to water your Christmas tree frequently, but carefully. Water and electricity don’t mix well, but, electricity and heat with a dried-out tree can cause catastrophic flames. It’s also the dry season outside, so be sure to keep yard debris away from your holiday lights and make sure that you use the proper outdoor electrical cords when setting up colorful displays.

Beyond fire hazards, be sure to keep glass ornaments out of reach of small children and curious animals. When opening presents, be sure an adult is available to help unwrap small items and wrangle with sharp scissors, packaging and batteries, all of which can hurt young children or pose a swallowing risk. If friends and family are coming over, be sure to ask about any food allergies — the last thing you want to do at a gathering is to rush someone to the hospital due to an unintentional allergy attack.

Keep emergency numbers easily accessible. If you need to, call 9-1-1, preferably from a land line. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office can be reached at (561) 688-3000. The main office for Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue can be reached at (561) 616-7000. You can reach Palms West Hospital at (561) 798-3300 and Wellington Regional Medical Center at (561) 798-8500.

When you’re out shopping, be extra diligent about knowing where your cell phone and wallet are. Don’t put either down on a counter or in a shopping cart. They’re too easy to forget, or worse, be stolen. Be sure to lock your car doors, and if you’re stowing purchases in your car, make sure they are not visible. When shopping at night, try to park near a light. Beware of others following you in the parking lot, and if you feel uneasy, ask a clerk or security guard to escort you to your vehicle. Also, if you are shopping online, be sure to take in packages immediately after delivery. Thieves have been known to cruise neighborhoods looking to steal holiday packages.

Finally, there is invisible darkness and danger that lurks within. If you’re feeling anxiety or depression during the holiday season, there are things you can do to feel better. The symptoms of the “holiday blues” may include fatigue, tension, frustration, sadness, loneliness or isolation, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. To combat the blues? Stick to as much of a normal routine as possible, get enough sleep, spend time with supportive and caring people, drink in moderation (or don’t drink at all), keep a simple to-do list, exercise, set reasonable goals and expectations, listen to music to relax and set a budget for holiday activities. Some helpful phone numbers, in case you need someone to talk to, include the Suicide Prevention Services Crisis Hotline (800-784-2433), the Suicide Prevention Services Depression Hotline (630-482-9696) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255). For many people, navigating the holiday season can be a challenge. If you are not feeling joyful, don’t let the season overwhelm you and be sure to reach out for help.