A SOUTHAMPTON casualty doctor today warned that carving the Christmas turkey while drunk or popping champagne corks could seriously damage the population's health on Christmas Day.

Dr John Heyworth, emergency department consultant at Southampton General Hospital, said that every year over the festive period he deals with a host of injuries as families get together.

More bizarre accidents medics have seen include: exploding Christmas tree lights, which caused small burns to eyelids and eyeballs, and zips caught on eyelids as people struggled to try on a new jumper.

Also on the list are burns from the oven, older people choking on their turkey and nasty hand and limb injuries caused by people trying to get stones out of avocados - something that is becoming an increasing issue.

Others can turn up at accident & emergency with eye injuries from poking themselves with Christmas tree branches while getting presents from under it.

Eye unit staff commonly see children suffering after poking themselves or others in the eye with new toys and glitter fragments in the eye from cards or craft activities.

Dry eyes from sleeping with eyes open after excess alcohol consumption is common.

Mr Heyworth said: ''Every Christmas without fail we see the same injuries caused by preparing and cooking the Christmas dinner.

''People are likely to burn themselves on the oven or cut themselves as they carve the turkey - particularly if they have been drinking alcohol.

''We will always see someone who chokes over Christmas, often the elderly. They will choke on a piece of meat because they don't chew it properly,'' he said.

''If people are looking after or hosting elderly people for Christmas dinner, it is important to take extra care of them. It seems like a basic thing, but someone will choke on turkey over Christmas - it happens every single year.''

Emergency nurse Rob Crouch said: ''Last year I remember incidents with people trying to get stones out of avocados.

''Instead of putting a knife across the stone and twisting, people tend to stab down and then either go through or slip off into the hand, often resulting in a nasty injury.''

Sister Emma Powditch added: ''The main problems people come in with over Christmas include scratches to the eye from Christmas tree branches as they place and retrieve gifts from under the tree and corks hitting the eye, which causes significant bruising and swelling to lids as well as inflammation and swelling within the eye.

''We would just say don't put presents too far back under the tree and open bottles pointing away from your own and others' faces to avoid unnecessary and damaging injury to the eyes.''

Top five reasons for going to Southampton General Hospital's casualty department last Christmas were: 1. Alcohol. Leading to fights, falling over and road traffic accidents.

2. Christmas toys. Children provided with new bikes and various forms of transport which are either too big for them or they cannot master quickly and they fall off and break bones.

3. Preparing Christmas dinner. Particularly if people have been drinking. Burns from the oven or cuts caused while carving are very common.

4. Choking on the turkey. Especially prevalent in the elderly.

5. People who run out of medication. Many do not realise the pharmacies and GP surgeries close or will not be as accessible for long periods over Christmas and new year.