American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Medical Professionals
 

Healthy hands through the holidays


healthy hands through the holidays

As wonderful as the holiday season is, rushing to get everything done can lead to hand injuries. A trip to the Emergency Department will not be a time-saver, and recovery from injuries can be lengthy. It is not the holiday memory you want to create!

Though the following injuries can happen at any time of the year, it seems that we see these more frequently when attention is scattered. COVID may limit gatherings this year, but it may also increase frustration and take focus away from careful practices.

Candles risk more than fire

Candles are beautiful, and the romantic lighting and lovely scents add to the holiday atmosphere. But when last year's stubs are stuck in the holders, and you want the holiday experience to start now! It is tempting to use a knife to pry out the wax.

You risk shattering glass holders and slicing your hand with the knife and/or shards of glass. Injured tendons and nerves take months to recover, and there is a high probability of long-term damage. Put the candle holder in the freezer for an hour to allow the wax to shrink or in hot water to allow the wax to soften. Either method will make it easier to remove the stub.

Take care washing dishes

Bringing out the fine china and crystal adds to the holiday spirit, but elegant dishware is frequently washed by hand. At least a day before an event, check your infrequently used dishes for dust so that you aren't trying to hurriedly wash all of your dishes in the moments before dinner is ready.

Rinse in hot water and dry immediately with a low-lint towel. After the party, fill dirty wine glasses with warm water to loosen stains. For stubborn stains, wrap the handle of a wooden spoon in a wet towel (preferably a microfiber one) and gently rub the stain while holding the glass by the bowl rather than the stem.

Put a rubber mat or folded towel in the bottom of the sink to avoid breakage while washing china. If you have decreased hand sensation, be extra-cautious about how tightly you hold breakables, and consider delegating this task.

Careful in the kitchen

Cooking elaborate meals can be enjoyable but stressful. If you aren't a professional chef or you don't usually cook an elaborate dinner for a group, it can be a challenge to get all dishes onto the table at the same time.

Create the menu, the shopping list, and a schedule well ahead of time. If you realize at 4 AM that you don't have a required ingredient, your stress level will rocket and you will lose focus.

Identify which tasks can be done ahead of time. Consider ordering parts of the dinner from the grocery or a restaurant. Recruit a sous chef from your guest list. When making a dish, measure all components and put them into small bowls so that you don't have many larger containers taking up space.

Never cut vegetables and fruit while holding them in your palm. Stabilize your cutting board by placing a damp paper towel beneath it. Cut away from rather than toward yourself.

When taking a hot pan out of the oven, have a hot pad or cooling rack ready. Open the oven door fully to keep it from touching and burning your arms. Use a large enough pot to keep from splashing hot liquids on yourself. Minimize your mess and stress and maximize your counter space by washing dishes as you go. Wash knives immediately rather than leaving them hidden in soapy water.

Stay safe outside

At the beginning of winter, hand surgeons see an increase in fractures of the radius, wrist and hand from falls onto an outstretched hand. While doing holiday preparations, in the house or away from it, wear shoes with non-slippery soles.

If you are falling and have the presence of mind, drop what you are holding and tuck your arms to your chest. If dinner will be served outside, have your guests help set up the tables, carry place settings and bring the food outside to decrease the risk of rushing and tripping over the doorsill.

During the upcoming holiday season, remember to take time each day to meditate, breathe deeply and focus on whatever you are doing. If you are fortunate to be able to entertain, remember that your guests are likely to be happy to be doing something normal. The event doesn't have to be perfect. Be kind... Unwind!


The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

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