The weather is cooler, the wind is blowing (ooh La Bise!), the days are darker, Christmas markets and ice rinks are opening as are ski & snow-shoeing areas, which means that the winter season is upon us. With the winter season, this means that events start to be scheduled, our homes start to be decorated, travel & flights are planned, and outdoor activities begin anew.
With all these changes to routine, health & safety are rarely on our radar, but they should be: accidental injuries are one of the leading health problems in developed countries such as Switzerland. It’s time to put health & safety on the radar! Let’s discussion two questions: What does WINTER have to do with accidental injuries? And, What about other issues that arise during the holidays?
For this blog, let’s think accidental injuries. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents:
- Most accidents happen between late afternoon and early evening, in the summer, during school holidays and at weekends
- Factors such as stress, death in the family, chronic illness, homelessness or moving home increase the likelihood of the child having an accident
- Some happen when the usual routine is changed or when people are in a hurry
- Distractions and inadequate supervision are often the cause of accidents
- Poor housing and overcrowded conditions lead to increased numbers of accidents
- Some accidents are caused by lack of familiarity with surroundings, for example, when visiting friends or relatives, or in holiday accommodation.
All six points often occur at this time of year: days are shorter so there are longer evenings and the holidays are approaching and need to be planned/finalised. There are Christmas trees to decorate, decorations to hang & meals to prepare. There are often strange or unfamiliar venues and visitors and rooms are often overcrowded. There are also candles, open fires and fireplaces! Nevermind the fact that adults often consume more alcohol and living in Switzerland we also head out to unfamiliar ski slopes, ice rinks and other venues, these increasing the likelihood of an accidental SPORTS injury. And don’t forget changing tires from summer to winter! Risk increases and our vigilance often does not go up in a commensurate manner: we are distracted, increasing the chance of accident even more.
So what can we do? An obvious one is to stay vigilant at home, en route, and at your final destination. “It won’t happen to me” is not an attitude to take. It could. Moreover, as parents, no matter the age of our children, we should not only be aware of our own actions, but we should also ensure our children are well supervised. Children are inquisitive, love horseplay, have immature reactions to stress, love attention, and are less experienced so cannot anticipate or mitigate against an accident, so are more likely to wind up in precarious situations compared to adults. Without supervision — well, I’m sure many a reader has a story to tell, some which now bring laughs (but could have brought catastrophe) and others which actually do remind us of hardship.
Another thing to do is be prepared! This means know what to do in case an accident happens. HealthFirst & Healthy & Safe Away from Home are two organisations that offer First Aid & CPR Courses to parents, carers, others, IN ENGLISH, in Switzerland. HealthFirst, based in Western Switzerland, is a Parents Club partner, and offers classes but also First Aid kits for individuals and families. It doesn’t help to know what to do, if you do not have the supplies necessary! Parents Club members receive a free “On the Go” kit for enrolling in HealthFirst classes, which is great to take along to events, while travelling (in your checked luggage because of the scissors), or for the car. A larger Home Kit is available for sale for your home or the office and is a perfect gift for new parents or new homeowners.
And don’t forget fire safety & your fire extinguisher! A fire should never be left unattended, but even attended a candle can be knocked over, trees can set light (old wiring, dry tree), and decorations may fall down landing in the fireplace! Fire extinguishers are often on sale at this time of year, just head out to your local hardware store (Brico-Loisirs) to pick one up. Fire safety can also be discussed with your children; government organisations such as the US’s FEMA has tips & tricks online showing families how to prepare. And finally for safety is “water safety“. We are living in an alpine country with lots of waterways, tributaries and lakes, and in the fall and early winter with rains & melts, the water flows quickly and it’s easy for a pet, child or even adult to be swept away (La Cote newspaper reporting one such case in October of two adults drowning going in after a pet swept away by rushing waters). So be wary near water.
Stay safe this season!