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Minimize Winter Health Hazards -- Some Unlikely

From shoveling snow to taking down decorations, the holidays and months that follow can be filled with health hazards.

Those are obvious - but there are many that aren't as apparent.

For instance - did you know getting kissed on New Year's Eve could be a problem?!

Special Section: Dr. Jennifer Ashton
Dr. Jennifer Ashton's Twitter page

On "The Early Show" Tuesday, CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton shed light on the activities to beware of:

Shoveling snowcan put your heart, muscles and back at risk if you're not careful. For those with heart problems -- check with your doctor before you attempt to shovel. Unfortunately, this is a frequent time for heart attacks -- the shoveling of the snow may up your risk due to the overexertion. Not to mention, people with coronary heart disease can often suffer chest pain or discomfort because of the cold weather.

For the rest of us, before going out, warm up with some stretching. The best way to clear the snow is to push it to the side -- instead of lifting it. If you do have to lift it, use your legs, not your back muscles -- squat with your legs apart, knees bent, and back straight. Lift by straightening your legs, without bending at the waist. Then walk to where you want to dump the snow, holding the shovelful of snow close to your body. Holding it with outstretched arms puts too much weight on your spine. Also, don't throw snow over your shoulder -- it may strain your back muscles.

Don't forget to pace and hydrate yourself -- it's easier to get dehydrated in the cold. Drink plenty of water or other warm beverages -- not alcohol, because it will make you feel colder once the "warm glow" wears off.

Taking down holiday decorations requires care. I know the holidays can be tiring, but just as we practiced safety going into the season, we need to be safe cleaning and packing up. Every year, about 12,500 people are treated for falls, cuts, shocks, and burns due to incidents with holiday decorations.

When you're removing outdoor lights, never pull or tug on them -- they could unravel and inadvertently wrap around a power line. It's a good time check on your lights for any damage -- like frayed wires or cracked lights - and throw out damaged sets.

Christmas trees are generally dried out by this time, so either continue watering yours or get it recycled ASAP -- the longer a tree stays up, the greater a fire hazard it can be. Never burn your Christmas tree in the fireplace -- the trees can have a lot of sap, which is highly flammable and can explode.

Another word of advice: Plan ahead for a designated driver. It's a festive time of year -- and you need to plan ahead before you party. If you will be drinking, plan to have a designated driver -- someone who won't be drinking and can safely transport you back home. One-in-three fatal car accidents involve alcohol or drugs. Remember, after just one drink, your decision-making abilities can become impaired. After two drinks, reasoning and memory are affected. It's important to remember alcohol takes time to metabolize out of your system -- coffee won't help sober you up.

If you're tired, rest up before you hit the road -- sleepy driving can be just as dangerous.

Also: Be careful about that New Year's kiss! If you or your date is sick -- that midnight smooch may be hazardous to your health or his or hers! You could be jumpstarting your 2011 with a cold or flu. If you show signs of a flu-like illness, then the Centers for Disease Control recommends staying home for at least 24 hours AFTER your fever is gone. It might not be as festive or romantic, but if you are sick, close contact with people is not advised. There's also a lot of socializing, so don't forget to wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth too much.

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