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Over 18,000 annual ER visits linked to Christmas decor incidents

Incidents peak in the weekends following Thanksgiving

Every year, around 18,400 people[1] visit emergency rooms because of accidents with Christmas decorations. The peak day for these mishaps is usually the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when an annual average of 660 people seek medical attention for their injuries.

ER visits for Christmas decoration-related injuries increase after Thanksgiving

Median Christmas decoration-related emergency room visits per day, 2013 to 2022

Data includes only non-fatal injuries seen at ER visits. Christmas decorations include items coded as “Artificial Christmas trees,” “Christmas decorations, electric,” “Christmas decorations, nonelectric,” “Christmas tree lights,” and “Christmas tree stands or supports.”

ER visits related to Christmas decorations continue through the end of one year and into the next, with a slight increase around New Year’s Day. These year-end ER trips coincide with reports of injuries sustained while taking decorations down.

Who is injured by Christmas decorations?

Of the 18,400 people injured by Christmas decorations each year, an estimated 1,900 (10%) of them are younger than four.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, young children typically visit the emergency room more frequently than any other age group. However, if Christmas decoration injuries followed the usual pattern of product-related accidents, one would expect roughly 500 fewer incidents to involve young children, suggesting that toddlers face an increased danger from these festive items.

Young children and middle-aged adults are particularly at risk for injuries related to Christmas decorations

Compared to age distribution of all product-related ER visits, median for 2013 - 2022

Expected ER visits*

Actual ER visits

* Based on the distribution of nationwide estimates for all product-related emergency room visits, scaled to 18,440 visits to mirror the population size of Christmas decoration-related patients.

Data includes only non-fatal injuries seen at ER visits associated with over 15,000 consumer products. Christmas decorations include items coded as “Artificial Christmas trees,” “Christmas decorations, electric," “Christmas decorations, nonelectric,” “Christmas lights, electric,” “Christmas tree lights,” and “Christmas tree stands or supports.”

Middle-aged adults, however, face the largest risk of injury. Annually, around 5,300 people between the ages of 40 and 60 visit the ER for Christmas decoration-related injuries. That’s nearly 50% more than would be expected given usual product-related accident patterns.

Teenagers and young adults, who are typically prone to injury and ER visits, experience far fewer Christmas decoration-related injuries.

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How are people injured by Christmas decorations?

Medical staff report an abbreviated description of patient injuries for each ER visit. USAFacts analyzed these reports for patients who experienced Christmas decoration-related injuries to find the words commonly used in toddler injury reports compared to those describing adult injuries.

While reports for both groups contained words such as “fall,” the words that were used primarily for toddlers indicated different causes of injury than the words used for adults.

Toddlers are more likely to be injured by decorations, while adults are more likely to be injured while decorating

Based on descriptions of incidents during Christmas decoration-related ER visits, 2013 through 2022

Text analysis of lemmatized words in the brief reports detailing emergency room injury incidents. Excludes diagnosis, body parts, and combines synonyms (e.g., ingest, eat, ingestion).

“Toddlers” include children under the age of four and “adults” includes people between 40 and 60 years old.

Toddlers are known to put objects in their mouth and, according to these ER reports, Christmas decorations are no different. Many incident descriptions detailed how young patients “ingested," “swallowed,” or “chewed” on decorations, especially ornaments or electric Christmas lights.

The data also indicates that toddlers are prone to injuries from stocking holders. Most commonly, these holders — which are typically weighted to hold a hanging stocking — are either pulled or fall from where they are placed onto the toddler.

Adults, on the other hand, are more prone to injuries associated with the act of decorating, rather than injuries from the decorations themselves. Many of the reports describing adult incidents mentioned slipping or falling, especially from atop a high object like a chair, ladder, or a roof.

For more information about safety during the holiday season, visit the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Holiday Safety Guide.

Sources & Footnotes