About 5,800 people spend part of their winter holidays in emergency rooms, tending to fall-related injuries sustained while decorating. So says the CDC, based on data from the 2000-2002 winter holidays.

According to their estimates, two to three people every hour were treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries sustained while decorating during each of the 2000, 2001, and 2002 holiday seasons.

Most of those spills (62 percent) were taken by people aged 20-49. However, young people usually avoid falls during the rest of the year, accounting for only a third of yearly fall-related injuries.

Men were 40 percent more likely than women to be injured in holiday decorating falls. For both sexes, fractures were the most common injuries.

Most injuries (43 percent) happened when people tumbled off ladders while decorating. Fewer people fell off roofs (13 percent), furniture (11 percent), or stairs (3 percent). More people may have been injured but didn’t go to an emergency room.

That doesn’t make holiday decorating dangerous. Decorating-related injuries represent less than 1 percent of the nearly 2 million injuries from falls that occur each holiday season, says the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Just take sensible precautions.

For instance, if you need to gain a little height to place ornaments on a Christmas tree, don’t try to balance on a chair or other piece of furniture. A step stool is a better option. It’s also wise to notice possible hazards, such as slipping on tree skirts.

Since ladders account for most fall-related decorating injuries, the CDC offers these ladder safety tips:

—Make sure ladders are on secure, level ground before climbing.

—Space the ladder’s base 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 feet it extends up.

—Stay centered between the ladder’s rails. Don’t overreach to the side, instead move the ladder.

—Don’t stand on the ladder’s top two rungs. To reach a roof, extend the ladder at least 3 feet beyond the roof’s edge.

—Keep the area clear around the top and bottom of the ladder.

—Ensure step ladders are locked open securely.

—Never use a folding step ladder when it’s closed.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCES: CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Dec. 10, 2004; vol 53: pp 1127-1130. News release, CDC.