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What does the New Year mean to you? For many people, the New Year's celebration represents much more than the start of a new calendar year. You're saying no to the old year and everything you didn't like about it, and starting afresh — often with bold resolutions. Unlike more family-centered celebrations like Thanksgiving and Christmas, the New Year is often seen as an opportunity to let go of worried and go a little crazy.
Will your New Year mark the start of fresh ambitions, or will you begin 2014 with a trip to the Emergency Room, a long-term physical deformation, liver damage or moral guilt?
Avoid these hazards, and keep up the good work during the next 12 months.
Fireworks — Not All They're Cracked Up To Be
Fireworks are a spectacular way to welcome the new year. You already knew that they are bad for the environment, and were probably aware that fireworks can also be toxic to humans. Though many modern fireworks now contain non-toxic ingredients, barium, copper, cadmium, lithium, antimony, rubidium, strontium, lead and potassium nitrate are also still quite common. These ingredients produce a variety of negative health effects. Some cause breathing difficulties while others are radioactive or carcinogenic.
Will the fireworks display you are going to be watching lead to long-term health problems for you or other members of your family? Possibly, but that could be the case even if you are not watching it. Fireworks are, however, quite likely to result in an immediate catastrophe if they are not used responsibly.
Don't be an idiot and pull stupid stunts with fireworks — don't chuck them at people, remain too close to them while igniting them, pick up fireworks that did not explode or wear flammable clothes while you light them. Don't purchase illegal fireworks or tamper with legally purchased fireworks to make them more potent. Above all, keep fireworks out of the hands of children (particularly teens!) and make sure there are no kids in the vicinity if you light any fireworks.
The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a professional fireworks display, or to watch one on television.
People who have particularly sensitive lungs, or suffer from asthma, should always take care to stay indoors if their New Year's celebration is firework-heavy. The fumes released by fireworks can easily bring on a full asthma attack, so do what you can to minimize the risk and ensure that you have your salbutamol inhaler with you at all times.
Alcohol: Are You Sure You Want To Live With Its Consequences?
While kids will think no New Year's celebration is complete without fireworks, most adults believe this night to be the best night of the year to get sloshed. Are you quite sure you want to live with the consequences of an alcohol overdose on New Year's Eve, though?
Yes, we're a health site. You already know that binge drinking does much more damage than moderate alcohol consumption spread out over a period of time. You already know you'll feel awful in the morning, and you also already know that the Tylenol you might take for your hangover and the alcohol you had the night before make for an especially liver-unfriendly combination.
But... are you also happy to wake up without being sure what you did on New Year's Eve?
Your personal catastrophe might range from realizing you've told your apparently mentally ill sister that you think she needs to see a psychologist to finding your ex or someone you've never seen before in bed next to you. If you were really stupid, you might even be in hospital after having been in a drink-driving car accident.
You could consider starting your new year's resolution a bit early this time, and making it about alcohol. Enjoy alcohol in moderation, and don't overdo it.