The holidays are a wonderful time, when family and friends can spend time together, relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. But a serious accident can change a family celebration into an extended stay at the hospital and unexpected medical expenses.

Holiday injuries happen as a result of a variety of circumstances. The holiday injuries that are surprisingly common are:

Falls While Hanging or Removing Decorations

For many people, decorating for the holidays can be an involved activity. Lights need to go up on the outside of the house. Putting up outside lights often involves climbing a ladder. The Christmas tree needs to be decorated and the home decorated with seasonal items. Boxes of holiday decorations have to be brought down from the attic.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that approximately 15,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for holiday decorating injuries in November and December 2012. Falls are the most common type of accident associated with holiday decorating, according to the CPSC. Every year, hundreds of people fall off ladders while stringing decorations.

Caution must be taken to avoid injury. Using proper tools, such as a correctly rated ladder rather than standing on a chair, can help prevent a serious injury. Having someone who can spot you on the ladder or assist you during the decorating process is another way that injury from falls can be prevented. Keep your body centered on the ladder. If you lean too far to one side, it can cause you to lose your balance and fall.

Burns Caused by Cooking-Related Accidents or Accidental Fires

The holidays are known for big parties, family get-togethers and delicious food. When those preparing the food are rushed, or are distracted by hungry guests, burn accidents and injuries can be quite common.

Candles and fireplaces must be tended to at all times. Candles top the list of fire hazards, causing 12,000 fires a year, leading to 150 deaths, according to the CPSC. Candles need to be placed out of children’s reach and far away from the edge of counters and tables. Keep candles away from evergreens and curtains that can catch fire. Never leave candles unattended. Extinguish all candles when leaving a room.

Christmas trees also are involved in many fires. If buying an artificial tree, look for a label that indicates the tree is “fire resistant.” When putting up a Christmas tree, place the tree away from fireplaces and radiators.

When buying lights, purchase only lights that have been tested for safety. Look for a symbol on the packaging indicating that a well-known testing laboratory such as UL or ETL/ITSNA has tested the lights.

Limiting the number of cords you are trying to plug into one outlet or power strip can reduce the risk of an accidental electrical fire. No more than three strands of lights should be plugged into any outlet.

Fires, even those in fireplaces, can get out of control, causing significant injury and harm. Overloaded outlets can turn into potential fire hazards as well.

Accidents Caused by Drunk Drivers

Car accidents, particularly those involving drunk drivers, are common during the holidays. With so many people traveling during the holidays, roads and interstates can become heavily congested. In addition to the increased volume of vehicles on the roads, there also tend to be more drunk drivers during the holiday season.

When people go to holiday parties, or go out drinking with friends, good judgment can go out the window. If you are going to drink during the holidays, be sure to have a designated driver. Doing all you can to avoid driving at night or during periods in which there are dangerous weather conditions can also be helpful in avoiding a serious or fatal car accident.  If you were injured in a traffic accident caused by another driver, contact a personal injury attorney to understand your legal options.

Holiday Sports Accidents

Each family has their own holiday traditions. Some love traveling, others love sitting around the fireplace telling stories or playing board games, and there are those who wait all year long to play their traditional family sports activities. Whether you, your family and friends love to play flag football, go skiing or engage in other sports-related activity, injuries do happen. Sprained ankles, bruised or broken bones, lacerations and head trauma are the most common injuries stemming from holiday sports accidents.

How to Avoid Sustaining Serious Injury Over the Holidays

Avoiding serious injury over the holidays begins with exercising caution. Give yourself ample time to prepare, regardless of whether your preparations involve decorations, food, parties, travel or any other holiday activity. Have the proper tools for decorating chores and use them as intended. Read warning labels on products with which you are not familiar, and carefully follow the instructions the manufacturer laid out for your safety. Exercising caution can help keep you and your loved ones safe this holiday season.