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Holiday Health Hazards to Avoid

Poinsettias can trigger allergies.
Poinsettias can trigger allergies.

Staying healthy isn't just about what you should be doing, but things you might want to avoid. When your normal routine changes, you're more prone to experience problems. For many people, the time of the year most likely to be disruptive is over the October-November-December holiday season. Here are five hazards the season can bring and how to avoid them.

Holiday food "excuses" grow and multiply. Fast food outlets roll out pumpkin spice coffee drinks, chocolate peppermint desserts and meals topped with apples and caramel. By limiting how long these options are available, they create a sense of urgency. People feel like they MUST order them or they'll be missing out.

Go ahead and order the special, but with these restrictions.

- If there are sizes, only get the smallest available.
- Split it with at least one other person. Don't eat or drink the entire thing, just take a bite or a sip. Your goal should be to experience the taste, not fill up with empty calories.
- Once you've had your taste, toss what's left and go back to your regular, healthier options.

The change in seasons can cover lawns in dead leaves. You may suddenly be faced with raking up and disposing of larger than normal amounts of yard waste. In colder climates, the first snow arrives and it can take a significant amount of work to clear it. Then the problems start.

The colder weather constricts blood vessels, lowering the amount of blood you get to vital organs. What's happening at the same time as you're putting in extra effort to clear leaves and snow. It's that deadly combination that increases the risk of heart attacks.

For anyone who leads a mostly sedentary life, or has high blood pressure, diabetes or a heart condition; consider having those chores handled by a professional. For people in good health, make sure to warm up before you start and don't spend more time on those chores than you would in a typical gym session.

Indoor plants can also change. Years ago we filled our training center with bright red and white poinsettia plants. Within an hour one of our trainers started having an allergic reaction. We discovered the poinsettia is part of the same plant family as natural rubber latex. People who have a latex allergy may also experience a severe allergic reaction around the popular holiday plants. For our customers and employees protection, we had to get them all out of the building.

Before you fill your home or business with holiday foliage, consider taking a few precautions.

- Avoid poinsettias in small spaces or where people may come in close contact with them.
- Trees and wreaths sometimes come with pollen or mold spores on them. Wear gloves and long sleeves when you handle them, then hose greenery off and let it thoroughly dry before bringing it indoors.
- Be careful putting up holly as well, since the berries are poisonous. If they fall off, pets or small children may try to eat them.

Putting up decorations can be fun, but they pose problems of their own.

- Ornaments may collect dust and mold while stored away, so clean them before putting them out.
- You might look for plastic containers you can seal to keep them cleaner in storage.
- Avoid cardboard or wooden bins which are more likely to allow moisture in.

Don't handle strings of lights with your bare hands. The cord used for string lights is made out of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Lead is used as part of the PVC insulation to stabilize the wiring so it doesn't crumble as it ages. However, handling the wiring can put lead into your system. Since no amount of lead exposure is considered safe, avoid contact and use gloves anytime you touch the wires.

When the demands of the season start to pile up, remember a powerful word. NO. You don't have to do everything. Schedule time for yourself every day and protect that time. Stay healthy and you'll be able to be there when family and friends need you. 

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