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Updated 03 November 2014

Don't be a New Year's fool

New Year's Eve. Auld Lang syne and all that. But this evening of fun and laughter is not without its dangers.

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Once the turkey sandwiches have all been finished and Santa Claus and his reindeer packed in a trunk until next year, the New Year celebrations lie ahead. Indeed a season to be jolly as well, but not too jolly – it could land you in the local trauma unit.

From cheers to tears. New Year celebrations are associated with merriment - and drinking lots of alcohol. 'Tis the season to be jolly after all. Watch what and how much you're drinking, as it could turn into the season to be sorry. You could start the New Year with a massive hangover, or even worse, be hospitalised with alcohol poisoning. You may be seeing in the New Year not with the woman of your dreams, but with Sister Mathilda, who looks as if she could be put to good use in a demolition yard. And she's heading for your bed with an injection.

Give me my keysh – it'sh my car. On New Year's Eve, many of the people who drive are less than sober. In fact, this is the night you would swear we've changed over to driving on the right side of the road. Try and avoid having to drive anywhere that night. Have a party at your house, or, if possible, sleep over where you are going. The roads are dangerous, other drivers could be dangerous and you could be a danger on the road if you've had one too many. Don't go there.

Baby let me light your fire. In the southern hemisphere, many people see in the New Year with a braai. Just remember that fires are dangerous and should be tended by someone who has had no more than two drinks. When Bill says, "Have I shown you my fanshy trick with matchesh?", stop him. This is not the time nor the place. In fact, why did you invite Uncle Bill after what he did last year at the party? Don't help the fire along with an inflammable liquid – you could come horribly short. Keep pets and children well away from the fire, and put it out once you have finished using it.

The Big Bang. Fireworks are beautiful and can be spectacular, but are not without their dangers. Only adults should set them off and then only in designated areas. There is a reason why you cannot launch purple rockets from you flat balcony or your backyard – they are a fire risk and can do some serious damage. And, please, if something doesn't detonate, give it at least 15 minutes before you investigate. Bending over a lit firework has cost many people an eye or landed them in the local ICU. If you do land in the ICU, let it be for something heroic, rather than something you'll be teased about for the next forty years.

Down she goes. Alcohol and water are a deadly combination. Post-midnight drunken bravado has seen many a soul disappear beneath the breakers on the beach. Swimming in the sea at night is not recommended. Pools can also be dangerous – if you can't swim when you're stone cold sober, you sure as hell can't swim when you've had several too many. And with everyone around you possibly being in a real party mood, it's surprising how long it could take before anyone realises that it's been a while since you planted slobbering kisses on any party guests. By which time you may already be down under. And next year you'll be on the Auld Lang Syne list.

From toothpick to beach ball. Having a good time is often synonymous with eating lots of festive fare – chips, snacks, plates of food piled high enough to cause a visual obstruction. There is nothing quite as certain to stop you from being the life and soul of the party, as a good bout of nausea and stomach cramps. And forget about that advertisement of the man who turns green after eating a mound of slap chips, takes the magic antidote and carries on partying. In your dreams. Eat, have fun, but stop when you're feeling full. A friend has seen in the New Year sitting all by himself in someone's guest toilet, with a bucket on his lap – and he says it was no fun. Take it from him.

September baby boom. Think about your friends. Think about how many birthday presents you have to buy in September. Do you think all these babies were carefully planned? No, their imminent arrival was initially probably as welcome as the January credit card statement. Which is why you should leave nothing to fate when you snuggle up to friend, foe, saint or stranger on this festive evening. And what's more, an unwanted pregnancy is not the only possible unwelcome news these days after a jolly old romp in the hay with the one in the clown suit whose name you can't quite remember.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated December 2013)

 

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