Holiday health risks to watch out for

Co-author: Dhayana Sena 

‘Tis the season to be jolly – but hopefully it’s also the season to be safe. The Christmas holidays are a time of year when accidents do tend to happen. Partially because we’ve actually left the office desk behind and have time on our hands. Time on our hands can mean time to get into trouble!

There are a number of accidents and incidents to be particularly aware of over the festive season – and they don’t include over eating or stress generated by the in-laws. Instead, they include the following.


Sunburn can happen at any time of year and in almost any weather conditions, but over the Christmas break, more of us are spending welcome time outside! But that also means that the risk of sunburn – and the risk of long-term impacts of skin cancer – increase. According to the Cancer Society of New Zealand, New Zealand has among the highest melanoma rates in the world.

No one wants to be part of that statistic, so don’t forget to slip, slop, slap and wrap.

Heat exhaustion/dehydration

Christmas is exciting – there are people to see, meals to eat, gifts to unwrap and a lot of (excitedly) rushing around. It can also be hot and it’s easy to forget to drink enough water. A headache, nausea, muscle cramps and dizziness can all be signs of heat stroke. Take it easy and drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

Road accidents

Road accidents are a risk throughout the year, particularly if alcohol is thrown into the mix. In the 12 months prior to April 2019, a total of 377 people were killed on our roads. Even one death is too many – ensure that you drive safely this holiday season. We’ve written an earlier guide on how to stay safe on New Zealand’s notorious winding roads. Also, don’t forget to make sure you have your car insurance up to date, in case your vehicle suffers any dings along the way. 

Swimming accidents 

The weather is warm, we’re more likely to be at the beach or beside the pool, and that can lead to an increased risk of swimming accidents. According to Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ), drowning is consistently the third highest cause of unintentional death in the country.  In 2018, a total of 66 lives were lost in drowning incidents, with beaches and rivers the two most common locations for tragedy to occur.

Oceans, rivers and home swimming pools look very tempting to our young children on a hot summer day – keep an eye on them during the bustle of the holiday season.

Dangerous toys

Each year, millions of dollars are spent on kids toys. Sometimes, though, the batteries and small detachable pieces can end up in places they were never meant to be. This can result in a very unhappy child and a dash to the emergency room of the nearest hospital.

So, it’s important to ensure that any toys you buy have as little hazardous material and small, detachable pieces as possible, to avoid any incidents.

Alcohol-related incidents

Pretty self-explanatory – but the statistics are sobering. The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) reports that a snapshot survey taken at a number of emergency departments (EDs) across New Zealand at 2 am on Sunday 16 December 2018 revealed that one out of five patients were there as a result of the harmful use of alcohol. ACEM conducted the snapshot survey in December 2018, which found that 14% of presentations to New Zealand EDs were alcohol-related. 

ACEM President Dr Simon Judkins says, “Alcohol has never been cheaper or more heavily promoted than it is now and we see the very real effects of this in emergency departments in New Zealand. In what is already a high burden environment, we bear the brunt of inadequate alcohol regulation.”

The importance of health insurance

Given that the risks to your health and safety increase over the holiday period, it’s important to ensure that you are covered by health insurance in the unlikely event that you need medical attention.

There are several options for Kiwis when it comes to health insurance. Find out which one suits you best by using Canstar’s comparison tool here.

Cover image: Shutterstock: Suzanne Tucker

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