Entries in Holidays (9)


Holidays Most Dangerous Time for House Fires

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The next two weeks are the most dangerous time of the year for house fires, according to fire safety experts. From Dec. 23 through Dec. 25, and Dec. 26 through New Year’s, the chances of a candlelit fire soar more than 300 percent.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), new homes -- built with and stuffed full of synthetic materials -- burn up six times faster than older homes built 50 years ago.

According to FEMA, fire deaths have been down two percent in the past five years, but deaths from accidental fires have gone up 18 percent. Cooking fires are up 16 percent.

While synthetic materials have made household construction and products sturdier and cheaper, they’re also more flammable. And technology has been slow to respond. Mattresses, however, once the chief killer in fires, seem to be an exception. They are now designed to burn more slowly.  Some mattresses ABC News tested at the Underwriters Labs were nearly self-extinguishing.

But the real lifesaver in a fire, Tom Chapin, vice president of corporate research for Underwriters Lab says, is awareness.  A  smoke detector with working batteries is likely the best bet.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Holy Smokes! How to Prevent a Hazardous Holiday

Comstock/Thinkstock(ROCKVILLE, Md.) -- “O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree! Thy leaves are so unchanging.”

This may be true for this classic and beloved song…but for those of us with trees in our homes that happen to be too dry, those leaves are easily a holiday hazard waiting to catch on fire.

Tuesday in Rockville, Md., the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission demonstrated how in only 40 seconds your entire holiday could come melting to the ground, along with your house.

“No matter how well you water a tree or how fresh it is when you bring it home, trees last only a maximum of four weeks,” John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for Underwriters Laboratories Inc., which independently tests products and provides safety recommendations, told ABC News.   

“It’s the speed at which it burns that’s so scary because you need time to get out once your smoke alarm goes off,” said Drengenberg.

According to the CPSC, between 2006 and 2008, there are an average of four deaths a year related to Christmas tree fires, causing an estimated $18 million in property damage.

But, Christmas trees are not the only fire hazards around the holidays. The No. 1 culprit: candles, which account for approximately 130 deaths and $360 million in property losses.

“They can be very pretty and they are very much fun to have, but you have to be careful,” Drengenberg said. “The main tip that Underwater Laboratories can give anyone is blow out the candle before you leave the room.” It may be inconvenient, said Drengenberg, but this small act can “save you a lot of grief.”

“Christmas is a time of many traditions and people like to use grandma’s table cloth on the table for Christmas dinner, but lights should not be a tradition,” Drengenberg said. Tossing lights, he said, is one thing you should feel good about doing.

If the light is frayed with wires showing or has too many bulbs burnt out CPSC and UL recommend purchasing new ones.

Drengenberg explained that a red UL sticker, which can be found on a metallic sticker attached to the lights, means the product has been tested for rain, humidity and UV light, among other things, and has been approved for outdoor use. A green UL means the lights are for indoor use only and should never be placed outside.

Tagging such as this helps to make sure you don’t purchase lights that are too thin and easily broken or that don’t have the proper surge protectors.

Inez Tenenbaum, head of the CPSC, highlighted regulatory enforcement efforts within the United States. This past week, Christmas lights arriving at a port in Long Beach from China were so thin the light could be snapped off the wire.

“Our people at the port saw that they didn’t meet the standard and we seized them and kept them from being sold in the United States,” Tenenbaum said.

Bottom line: Unsafe lights could possibly slip through the cracks and make their way into homes, so ultimately the consumer needs to verify lights are safe.

CPSC estimates that during November and December of 2010, more than 13,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for holiday decoration-related injuries, a number that has continued to rise since 2007.

Here are holiday tips from CPSC to make sure your holiday stays merry:

  •     Use the appropriate ladder when hanging Christmas lights
  •     Don’t use decorations that look like candy or food, as these can confuse young children or pets
  •     Make sure your decorations are lead-free
  •     Designate a family tree waterer to avoid the tree drying out too early
  •     Check smoke alarms and batteries
  •     Have a family emergency plan should you need to evacuate

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Dr. Oz’s Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It’s the holidays, a time for fun, family and, of course, food.  So what can you do to get a jump start on a New Year’s Eve resolution after end-of-year overindulgence?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show and contributor editor to O, The Oprah Magazine, appeared on ABC's Good Morning America on Monday to share a few simple steps from his 28-Day Fresh Start plan to help you tackle the issue.  The doctor focused on what food you should eat, ideal portions, how much exercise you should get and how you can keep your mouth -- and your dentist -- happy.

The plan emphasizes the following simple steps over big, sweeping plans that may possibly be overwhelming:

Drink Green Tea

Green tea is good for you, but not everyone likes the taste, Oz says.  However, green tea comes in varied flavors, including pineapple, mint and honey, so you can try it in these flavors.  Because green tea isn’t fermented, as black and oolong teas are, it contains the highest concentration of powerful antioxidants.

Don’t Forget to Walk

People are supposed to walk 10,000 steps per day, but the average American woman walks less than half that, so Oz encouraged people to start counting their paces so they can get closer to their goal number of steps. 

Watch Your Portion Size

We often don’t realize that the little things can make a big difference when we step on the scale after the holidays.  One of the biggest mysteries for those who are watching their weight is how to gauge portion size.  Here’s Oz’s guide:

-- Rice: If you’re trying to eat healthy and having rice, you should have about 150 calories’ worth.  That’s the size of a lightbulb, or about one-half of a cup.

-- Peanut butter/hummus: How much peanut butter do you put on your morning toast? How much hummus goes in your afternoon sandwich?  Try the size of a golf ball.

-- Low fat cheese: It’s a great source of calcium, but don’t overdo it at the party.  A serving size is about the size of three dice -- that’s just three cubes.

-- Chicken breast/turkey on a sandwich: If you’re putting it onto a sandwich, keep the portion to the same size as a deck of cards.

-- Olive oil: This one is tricky and most people get it wrong.  Oz says a serving of olive oil -- for cooking or putting on a salad -- should be about the size of a poker chip.

-- Cereal: People get this one wrong, too.  You shouldn’t eat an entire bowl full of cereal.  The amount of cereal should be about the size of a tennis ball.

Change Your Snacking Ways

If you snack on something different, you often can eat more of it.  There are about 90 calories in nine potato chips.  Or you can eat three cups of air-popped, fiber-packed popcorn, also about 90 calories.  Put a little garlic salt or cinnamon on the popcorn -- instead of butter -- for great flavor.

Flossing Is Important

If you don’t floss, it’s not just bad for your mouth, it’s bad for your health.  That’s because bacteria from your mouth gets into the bloodstream.  If you’re somewhere where it just isn’t convenient to floss, you can try the Interplak Dental Water Jet and Waterpik water flosser.

Catch Up on Your Family Medical History

If you’re going to be with family, take the opportunity to talk to them to find out what illnesses they’ve had so you can get a good idea of your risks.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


How to Beat the Holiday Blues

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- They say it's the most wonderful time of the year.  But for many Americans, the holiday season is the most hectic, most stressful and most demanding.

"There's the huge expectation to be jolly and cheerful and there's often a big contrast between how people are actually feeling and how they're expected to feel," said Nadine Kaslow, chief psychologist at Emory University School of Medicine. "A lot of the discomfort of the holidays lays in that discrepancy."

The financial strain of gift-giving, the memories of holidays past and the weight of wanting everything to be perfect can take its toll.  But managing expectations and keeping things laid back can help stave off the holiday blues.

Don't Take On Too Much

Hosting a holiday get-together is a big job -- all the cooking and cleaning, and making sure everyone has what they need.  But taking on too many responsibilities can leave you feeling too run down to enjoy the company.  Avoid missing out on the fun by sharing some of the work -- it will make the day less stressful for you and give others a chance to help out.

Keep Some Semblance of a Routine

Daily routines can go out the window during the holidays.  But building in some normalcy can help your mind and body.

"Self care is really important," said Kaslow.  "The extent to which you can build in some structure, like a walk, that can really help."

Give Yourself Some Space

Visiting with loved ones is great, but everyone needs downtime.

"Christmas forces people together in ways they don't usually interact," said Dr. Charles Raison, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona. "Family can be the greatest source of joy and the greatest source of misery, and often both at same time."

Just because you're all under one roof doesn't mean you can't take time for yourself -- it's not a sign that you're having a bad time.

Don't Drink Too Much

Wine, liqueurs, spiked eggnog -- it's easy to drink too much over the holidays.  But alcohol's effects can leave you feeling down.

"Alcohol is a depressant," said Kaslow.  "Too much of it, combined with the holiday blues can really make someone depressed."

Honor Loved Ones

The holidays can be especially difficult for anyone who's lost someone they love.  Remembering the person who used to cut the turkey or dress up as Santa can be hard.  But it can also bring the family closer.

"Find ways to honor that person," said Kaslow, whether it's a burning candle or telling stories over dinner.  "Creating new traditions is good.  But I also think it's just as important to find some way to keep them there."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Anthony Bourdain's Tips for Surviving Holiday Travel

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Whether you’re traveling by plane, train or automobile this holiday season, you’ll likely encounter a delay, hassle or unforeseen adventure at some point in your journey.   

If anyone knows how to survive a travel adventure it is Anthony Bourdain, the chef, author and Travel Channel host who has traveled the globe and visited some of the world’s most exotic locations for his Emmy-award winning series No Reservations.

In his new series, The Layover, Bourdain gives viewers his best tips on how to survive their own travel nightmares, and make the most of whatever trip they’re on.

Bourdain stopped by ABC’s Good Morning America to give viewers these top five tips to make their holiday travel less hassle, and more fun!

Eat like a local.  Wherever you are, eat what the locals are good at or famous for, and eat where those locals like to eat it. Do not rely on your concierge for dining tips. He’s in the business of making tourists happy. You want the places that make locals happy. Seek out places crowded with locals. Avoid places where others of your kind are present.

Show appreciation. People everywhere like it when you are appreciative of their food. I cannot stress enough how important your initial reactions to offerings of local specialties are to any possible relationships you might make abroad. Smile and try to look happy, even if you don’t like it. If you do like it, let them know through word or gesture of appreciation.

Visit local markets. Get up early and check out the central food market. It’s a fast way into a culture, where you’ll see the basics of the cuisine. You’ll often find local prepared foods at stands or stalls serving markets’ workers.

Travel prepared.  Be prepared to be stuck in an airport for indeterminate periods of time. Load your mobile device with as many games, songs, apps, and e-books as possible to keep busy during long waits. Also, make sure to pack a battery charger to power up.

Get comfortable.
  Remember to bring something scrunchy and long-sleeved, like a sweatshirt. You might need it as a pillow.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hormone Effect: Why Christmas Makes Us Nutty

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Arguably, no other time of the year has as profound an impact on our behavior as Christmas.

The combustible seasonal cocktail of high sugar intake, impulse buys, and family feuds can give new meaning to the classic lyric, "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas." But there might be some biological reasoning behind our seemingly erratic behaviors around this time of year.

Many experts say our feelings, thoughts and actions during the holiday season are driven by hormonal changes that might be more extreme than at any other time of the year.

"Certainly, it brings out the best and worst of us in every which way," said Dr. Robert Lustig, a neuroendocrinologist and professor of pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco.

While the stress factor is different for each person, the biological basis is the same.  The stress hormone cortisol works overtime during the holidays, Lustig said.

Cortisol can increase sugar production in the liver to power the muscles, which can increase blood pressure.  But stress energy can also turn into visceral fat, which is stored around the waistline.  Previous studies suggest that, in general, many people do not gain more pounds during the holidays compared to other times of the year.  But the body's composition and even how we perceive our bodies are likely to change.

Stress can also suppress the immune system and bring on colds and flu.  And the mixture of stress, temptation and the near-freezing temperatures can get us reaching for comfort food.

Burning the carbohydrates found in the dense, high-energy holiday food can generate body heat and raise insulin levels, Lustig said.

It's great to warm up, but too much insulin can lead to low levels of sugar and can cause the body to crash.  Chronically high levels of insulin can lead to diabetes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Thanksgiving Dinner 2011: Why Diets Fail

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ITHACA, N.Y.) -- Here's just what you want to hear on the eve of the holiday season: Nutritionists at Cornell University have made a strong argument that when it comes to overeating, free will is a myth.

Their research indicates that the reason diets fail is that they address the wrong problem. It's not possible simply to reduce caloric intake by willpower. The environmental cues that cause us to overeat are so powerful that when it comes to eating, free will is overwhelmed.

So here's what must be done: Change those deadly cues, not condemn ourselves for lack of willpower. This according to David Levitsky, professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell, and his graduate student, Carly Pacanowski.

"It is this myth -- that we are free to choose what we eat -- that is the foundation of the obesity epidemic," the researchers argue in a study that is to be published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.

The authors analyzed hundreds of articles on eating behavior, and conducted their own experiments, before reaching this conclusion. For the long term, they lay out steps that anyone can take to curb their caloric intake. But the research also suggests that the holidays ahead are a "perfect storm" for overeating.

Thanksgiving, especially, combines some of the worst environmental cues that they blame for overeating -- lots of food right under our noses, lots of company to share the moment, lots of choices of what to eat, and you can overload your plate because someone else is bound to be eating even more.

But it isn't the food itself that is the culprit. Nearly every year about this time the American Chemical Society puts out a press release showing that the traditional Thanksgiving meal is healthy -- honey-baked turkey and ham may be good for your heart, bread crust used in the stuffing is a "rich source of cancer-fighting antioxidants," cranberries rank number one in antioxidants, canned corn is a disease-fighter, greens are good for the eyes, even pumpkin pie can promote better vision. So what's the worry?

There's way too much of it. Millions of Americans will gain a pound over the holidays, and according to some research, that pound will still be around for next year's Thanksgiving.

When you step on the scales next January, you may feel like a weak glutton who doesn't have the willpower to push back from the table when the belly is full. Forget the guilt, according to the Cornell team. It's more complicated than that.

The researchers cite numerous studies indicating that most of us believe we can -- or at least should -- be in control of our food consumption.

"Apparently, Americans believe their eating behavior is totally controlled by their own will," the study says. "For most Americans, the obesity epidemic is a result of being weak willed, lacking the will-power to make healthy decisions."

They go on to cite studies showing that all diets eventually fail; what's lost will soon be regained. Only surgery, which brings its own problems, has proved effective at eliminating obesity. Surgery takes free will out of the equation, the researchers conclude. Instead, it imposes "physical constraint" on the amount of food that can be eaten at one time.

The researchers lay out a series of "environmental cues" that can be overwhelming. They include:

Serving size. "The amount of food people consume at a meal is determined to a large extent by the amount of food placed on the plate in front of them." A Cornell colleague, Brian Wansank, has shown that even reducing the size of the plate has an impact.

Too much variety. "As the number or colors of M&Ms or jelly beans increases, so does consumption." If there are more items to choose from, people will choose more.

Company. "Humans are social animals. Our eating behavior is very sensitive to others in our environment." Simply watching someone else eat makes you want to eat. And of course, someone else is bound to take a bigger portion than you.

The researchers also blame the restaurant industry for much of our problem. Too many restaurants serve too much food, and of course it's often the wrong kind of food, heavy in fat and sometimes inexpensive. And Americans eat in restaurants far more often than they did just a few decades ago.

So what's a body to do? Monitor closely, the study concludes. Measure your serving size, and step on the bathroom scales every day. And as other studies have shown, don't leave candy on your desk day after day. Make fattening foods less accessible.

In their own experiments, the researchers found that just weighing yourself occasionally doesn't do much good, because normal body weight fluctuates on a daily basis, and obesity can result from very small and unnoticeable incremental gains over time.

They found that when college freshmen reported their weight to their nutrition department via email every day, they did not gain weight during their first semester -- a particularly dangerous period for students. But students who were not required to report their weight daily gained about a pound.

Thus close monitoring paid off. It may also be that simply reporting your weight to someone else every day is an intimidating reminder to watch what you eat.

The research is bound to be controversial. According to their own findings, most believe they can control what they eat by their own willpower. But one thing is clear: for many people, it isn't working.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Women Avoid Giving Birth on Halloween, Study Finds

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Halloween is a day for painted faces, ghoulish frights and candy-induced sugar comas, but not much of a day for having babies, according to new research from Yale's School of Public Health.

Researchers hypothesized that women may hold off or speed up when they go into labor in order to avoid giving birth on holidays with negative connotations, such as Halloween, and aim for giving birth on "positive" holidays, such as Valentine's Day.  When they tracked the number of births occurring in the week before and after these holidays between 1996 and 2006, they found that the number of spontaneous births and Caesarean births rose and dipped according to this hypothesis.

Using a sample of all the births occurring in the U.S. during those years, researchers calculated the trends in spontaneous births, induced births and Caesarean.  There was a 3.6 percent increase in spontaneous births and a 12.1 percent increase in Caesarean births on Valentine's Day and a 5.3 percent decrease in spontaneous births and a 16.9 percent decrease in Caesarean births on Halloween.

"This study raises the possibility that the assumption underlying the term 'spontaneous births,' namely, that they are outside the control of pregnant women, is erroneous.  For it appears that pregnant women can expedite or delay spontaneous births, within a limited time frame, in response to cultural representations," the authors wrote.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Social Jet Lag Phenomenon Causes Post-Holiday Sluggishness

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MIAMI) -- Even if you didn't travel long distances during the holiday season, you may return to work feeling as if you did. British researchers use the term "social jet lag" to describe the mental and physical weariness people experience after days or weeks of irregular sleeping, eating and stress that experts say is similar to the travel jet lag that affects people who travel across time zones.

"Whenever we have a few days off, we have a tendency to go to sleep past our regular bed times and wake up later," said Dr. Salim Dib, assistant professor of neurology and sleep disorders at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "That messes up our circadian rhythm and makes it difficult to get up at our normal time in the morning."

There are many reasons sleep experts say the holidays can wreak havoc on the body's built-in clock. In addition to getting less sleep because of social obligations, family visits or shopping, other seasonal factors play a role in disrupting sleep patterns.

"The holidays relate to doing things that are out of the ordinary, such as drinking more alcohol, eating fattier foods and more stress in general," said Dr. Nancy Collop, director of the Emory Sleep Center in Atlanta. "There may be more reflux and other things that are not good for sleep."

Fortunately, experts say, this phenomenon is temporary, but there are things people can do to facilitate a return to sleep normalcy. People suffering from social jet lag should focus on waking up at their normal time in the morning, even if it takes longer than usual to fall asleep and people get less sleep.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio