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Staying safe during the holidays

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Posted at 11:18 AM, Dec 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-05 14:18:47-05

It is the time of year when we join with friends and family, exchange gifts and eat lots of delicious food. While the holidays are mostly joyous, it is not the time to let your guard down. Here are some safety tips we have compiled from various agencies.

1) Wash hands frequently

With people spending more time indoors with cooler weather and shorter daytime, germs spread more frequently. The best way to prevent the spread of infections is to wash your hands frequently.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people spend at least 20 seconds with soap and water. If soap and water are unavailable, the CDC recommends using a water-based sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content.

The CDC also advises to sneeze and cough into you sleeve, and to wash your hands after sneezing and coughing.

2) Properly preparing food

With large gatherings, improperly prepared food could potentially make a lot of people sick. While hand washing is important, food needs to be properly cooked. The USDA recommends that the white meat in turkeys needs to be cooked to 165 degrees, and ham should be cooked to 160 degrees. Cooking meat to the proper temperature will kill of bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.

3) Fire prevention

Fires are common this time of year for several reasons. One reason is many people use candles for decorations. The National Safety Council recommends that candles should not be used near curtains, drapes or trees.

If using a live tree, the tree should be watered daily. As a tree dries, branches can die. Dying branches can easily catch on fire when a tree is lit.

When attaching lights, do not connect more than three stands of lights together. If using an automatic timer, be sure to check the maximum wattage allotted to the timer.

4) Know your surroundings

Malls are busy this time of year and criminals take advantage of this. Crooks look for easy opportunities. If shopping at multiple venues, hide all bags and gifts from view.

Also if possible, shop with friends or family to provide safety in numbers.

5) Take your time

It never seems like we have enough time as Americans, but this is especially true during the holidays. When traveling, plan ahead and give yourself time to get to your destination. Weather can also delay your commute. Be patient and sit back and enjoy the holidays.

Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs.