Festive decorating can bring on holiday ouch

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ATLANTA - You better watch out: Decking the halls for Christmas brings a sharp increase in injuries from falling off roofs, ladders and living room sofas.

In its first study of seasonal spills, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that about 5,800 people a holiday season end up in U.S. emergency rooms because of decorating injuries.

The most serious injuries came from falling off roofs and ladders while hanging or taking down Christmas lights. People got hurt indoors, too, from falling off couches and chairs while decorating the tree or tripping over ornaments or other objects.

Men were more likely than women to get hurt during the Nov. 1-Jan. 31 holiday season. Men made up 58 percent of all emergency-room visits because of decorating falls for the years studied, 2000 to 2003.

During the holiday season, researchers found, fall injuries rise to 12 percent of emergency-room visits, up from 9 percent during the rest of the year. Broken bones were the most common injury, making up 34 percent of all holiday decorating injuries.

Tips to follow that just might keep you out of the emergency room

l Follow the 4-to-1 rule for extension ladders. If you are 4 feet up the ladder, the base should be 1 foot out from the wall. If you're 8 feet up, pull it out 2 feet, and so on.

l Stay centered when you're on a ladder. Watch your belt buckle: If it passes beyond the ladder rail, you're leaning out too far. Your feet shouldn't be above the fourth rung from the top of an extension ladder or the second rung from the top of a stepladder.

l A Christmas tree is a match waiting to be lit. Keep lit candles at least 3 feet from the tree, evergreen decorations and other holiday flammables, such as wrapping paper.

- Knight Ridder News Service