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As you open those presents this holiday season, do so with care

Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, 10:00 p.m.
 

Every family has one: That relative who meticulously opens Christmas presents, being oh-so-careful not to rip the wrapping paper.

Though they're often joked about or pressed to hurry up, emergency room doctors and safety experts say those gift recipients take the better approach to opening presents than people who tear into presents with abandon.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates 6,000 people nationwide end up in hospital emergency rooms each year from packaging-related injuries. That figure doesn't include the projected tens of thousands of others who go to urgent care centers or do not seek medical attention for paper cuts, lacerations, staple punctures or other wounds.

“Some of those packages, when it comes time to open them, there's no open button,” said Dr. Bruce Mac-Leod, medical director of the emergency department at West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield and president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

“If you look at how some electronics and gifts are shrink-wrapped, the only way to open them is with something sharp,” MacLeod said. “If you don't do it the safe way, you end up with a laceration or cut.”

Dr. Clifton Callaway, professor and vice chair of emergency medicine at UPMC, said the plastic encasing electronic devices can be more dangerous than scissors: “Cut plastic edges are just like a razor blade. They can make a cut very quickly that you need stitches for.”

MacLeod said many injuries result from “wrap rage” — frustration brought on by trying to open difficult packaging. He and other emergency room doctors recommend that adults help kids open hard plastic packages, cutting them with scissors as opposed to a box cutter or knife.

A Pennsylvania Medical Society poll taken in 2009 found that 17 percent of adults statewide injured themselves opening a gift or knew someone who did.

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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