Local hospital underscores safety this holiday season

The winter holiday season is an exciting time when many people spend more time with family and friends, shop for holiday gifts, and begin to wrap up their year. With the hustle and bustle, health and safety can often take the back-burner.This year, Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital (RPMH) is reminding the community to become aware of the things many overlook during the winter holiday season; keeping themselves and loved ones safe during this joyous time of year.“Looking out for the health and safety of our community members is one of our highest priorities,” said Donna Boatright, administrator of RPMH. “During holidays, such as Christmas and New Year, we see a spike in accidents and health risks that can easily be avoided if more attention were paid to the things around us.” There are a number of precautions Boatright mentioned, including auto-related accidents, personal stress, holiday decorations and decorating, toy safety, and holiday dieting. These categories are often the reasons people visit the emergency department throughout the winter months.RPMH has compiled a list of some of the things you should look out for this holiday season.--Check in with your physician.Health exams and screenings can help you identify and prevent complications before they begin. Boatright explained that now is a great time to talk with your physician to ensure all essential health exams and vaccinations have been performed and administered this year. According to public health officials, the 2012 flu season has started early. As previously seen, influenza A H3N2 strain - the dominant strain so far this flu season - appeared to be a good match for the current vaccine.While the flu vaccine is not 100 percent effective in preventing the flu, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages everyone age 6 and older to get vaccinated.--Manage your stress levels.Stress can easily increase throughout December for various reasons. While at work, try to save the easier tasks for the end of the day to allow yourself to relax before heading home.Returning calls, emails, and previewing the next day’s schedule allows your body and mindset to relax, leaving you more at ease when you get home. Most importantly, you are encouraged to leave work at the office, and avoid bringing it home.It is also important to make time for yourself each day. Stretching, short walks, naps, exercises, and hobbies can be extremely therapeutic for your physical and mental wellbeing.--Be aware of the foods you eat. The holiday season is a notorious time of year for weight gain among Americans. With this knowledge, it is important to observe serving sizes and frequency of meals.Many people also overlook the health risks associated with the foods they consume. This year, keep in mind the ingredients of the foods you eat as they could be harmful in terms of allergic risks.According to Brenda Hollis, dietician at RPMH, when preparing meals, always thaw meats in the refrigerator and never on countertops. Foods that require refrigeration should also never be left at room temperature longer than two hours.--Be mindful of the toys you gift to children.Millions of toys continue to be recalled each year because of defects and safety concerns. According to Boatright, everyone is encouraged to do their research before making your purchase for possible unsafe features that could injure your child or loved one.Selecting toys that are suitable for the age, abilities, skills, and interest of the child can help reduce harm. For example, a stuffed animal with plastic eyes or small buttons is inappropriate for babies and small toddlers as they could be a choking hazard.If assembly is required for toys, it is important that you read all instruction manuals and warning labels before allowing your child to play with their new toy. This practice can help reduce uncertainty on the appropriateness of the gift.--Drive safe during the winter.While it has been relatively warm in recent weeks, Texas weather is known to change in a heartbeat. Always be prepared by making sure your vehicle is up-to-date on all regular maintenance and inspections.According to Boatright, getting your vehicle serviced regularly and making sure your tires are appropriate to handle winter weather conditions are essential for road warriors traveling during the holidays. In addition, planning your trip, knowing the weather conditions, and researching the safest way to reach your destination can help save time, stress, and money.If attending holiday parties, remember to have a designated driver if you will be consuming alcohol. Know your limits, and consider making alternate travel arrangements if necessary.From the holiday music to quality time with family and friends, this is the season to slow down and be thankful for the life around us. Make sure you do all that you can to ensure you and your loved ones remain safe throughout the coming winter season.Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital provides healthcare for those in the communities they serve. Founded in 1976, Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital offers a wealth of medical services including: 24 hour emergency care, advanced radiology services including CT scanning and MRIs, outpatient lab, physical therapy, surgical services, swing bed services, patient education, home health and assistive services, and more. For additional information, visit www.rpmh.net.