Can you really get sick from eating poinsettia leaves? Are there any other holiday decorations we need to be careful around?

While poinsettias are not truly poisonous, experts say eating a large number of their leaves can indeed make you sick. Symptoms most likely to ensue are abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Poinsettias are reported to have a very unpleasant taste, so it is unlikely that children and pets would eat a large enough quantity to make them sick. The holiday decorations that we do need to be careful around are holly and mistletoe, which are both poisonous. If any part of these two plants is eaten, it can cause blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood pressure changes and even death. Children are often times attracted to these two plants because of their colorful berries. If decorating with holly and mistletoe this holiday season, just be cautions to keep them out of children’s reach.

Is there a right way to fall if you feel like you’re slipping? I’m always afraid to go out in the winter, but I assume if you fall on the most padded part of your body you won’t get hurt.

There is not a correct way to fall, but many people tend to try and use their arms to brace their falls. This in return can result in fractures in the hands, wrists and arms and even shoulder dislocations. While landing on the most padded part of your body, which is usually the hip or butt region, seems like a logical thought, it also can have negative outcomes such as broken hips and even broken and/or bruised tail bones. The best advice to take while going into the winter season, where slips and falls are more common, is to wear good well-fitting shoes with good treads on the bottom and not tense up your body with falls. Studies have shown that the more relaxed a person is in times of trauma, the less likely they are to have serious injuries.

How do you know if you’ve got a carbon monoxide problem? Will you start vomiting? Fall asleep?

Carbon monoxide, also known as the silent killer, is a colorless, odorless gas that can come from sources such as central heating systems, water heaters, open fires, car exhaust and other sources. The signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, which include headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, blurred vision and loss of consciousness, can mimic many other illnesses. Thus, the only way to know if you have a carbon monoxide problem is if you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home. One should be placed on every level of your house and when placing it on the wall, mount it at least five feet from the ground. As winter draws near and people begin using their wood burning stoves and fireplaces, it is important that you have your chimneys and smoke stacks in properly working condition as to prevent carbon monoxide buildup. Lastly, routinely check your carbon monoxide detector is working and has fresh batteries in it. If you suspect you have a carbon monoxide problem in your house, leave the house immediately and call 9-1-1.

What medical items would you suggest a family have around the house? I have children who are getting married and I’d like to make sure they have everything they could need. A thermometer? A heating pad? Ice packs?

Depending on who you talk to, you will get different answers to this question. In my opinion, the most helpful item to have around the house is just a basic first-aid kit which will include items such as band aids, gauze, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, etc. However, other items that I would recommended to have handy are Tylenol, Ibuprofen, hydrogen peroxide and/or rubbing alcohol, ice packs, thermometer, heating pad, ace wrap, tweezers, and hydrocortisone cream. With over the counter medications, many times they can sit around for months and even years without being used. It is important to check the expiration dates prior to use and, if expired, throw them away and buy new. It is also key to have a list of important numbers like your doctor’s office, dentist office, poison control, etc., in a convenient location in case you need them.

Could anyone get kidney stones? Or is there something that makes you more susceptible to them? Do they strike at a certain age?

In theory, anyone can develop kidney stones but there are some people who are more susceptible to them than others. There are four types of kidney stones; calcium, struvite, uric acid and cystine. Calcium stones can be associated with people who have diets high in calcium, sodium and vitamin D, people with intestinal bypass surgery, metabolic disorders and certain medications. Struvite stones are formed usually in a response from specific bacteria causing urinary tract infections. Uric acid stones tend to be associated with people who have gout, diets high in protein, certain genetic factors and being dehydrated. Cystine stones are formed primarily in people with cystinuria, which is a hereditary disorder affecting the kidneys. Kidney stones can occur at any age, however, most occur in adulthood, ages 30 to 50. Lastly, people who have had a kidney stone are at an increased risk of developing more throughout their lifetime.

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