Family gatherings, special traditions, delicious treats — the holiday season may
be the most wonderful time of the year, especially for kids. Unfortunately, for emergency
room doctors it's also one of the busiest.
Learn how to protect your little ones from some common holiday dangers, so you
and your family can enjoy a season that's happy and healthy.
Mistletoe, holly, poinsettias, Jerusalem cherry plants, and other plants are commonly
used as decorations during the holidays. Like many plants, these are considered potentially
poisonous and should be kept out of the reach of kids. Symptoms of plant poisoning
can include rashes, nausea, vomiting,
and diarrhea. If you suspect that
your child has eaten any part of a plant, immediately call your doctor or the National
Poison Center: (800) 222-1222.
"Bubble lights" containing methylene chloride can be poisonous if a child drinks
the fluid from more than one light (even if labeled nontoxic). Snow sprays may be
harmful if the aerosol propellants are used improperly.
Alcohol poisoning is a common risk
for children during the holiday season. Many parents host holiday parties where alcohol
is served. Take care to remove all empty and partially empty cups
as soon as possible. Because kids imitate adults, many may drink the beverages they
see adults drinking. Children become "drunk" much more quickly than adults, so even
small amounts of alcohol can be dangerous.
Food poisoning is another potential holiday hazard. Practice food
safety by washing hands, utensils, dishes, and anything else that comes in contact
with raw meat, including poultry and fish, and raw eggs before and after use. Don't
contaminate a serving dish with raw meat. Store leftovers properly and heat them thoroughly
Choking and Swallowing
Tree ornaments, light bulbs, icicles, tinsel, and small toys are potential choking hazards for small children
because they may block the airway. The general rule of thumb is that if it's small
enough to fit in the mouths of babies and toddlers, it's too small to play with.
Common holiday foods such as peanuts or popcorn are potential choking hazards
and should not be given to children under age 4.
The needles of holiday trees can cause painful cuts in the mouth and throat of
a child who swallows them.
Angel hair (made from finely spun glass) and ornament hangers may cause cuts,
skin irritation, or eye damage if
touched or swallowed by children.
Keep your tree secured in a sturdy stand so that it doesn't tip over (or isn't
knocked over by kids or pets) and keep it away from all heat sources, such as electrical
outlets, radiators, and portable space heaters. If you buy an artificial tree, be
sure it's labeled "fire-retardant." Unplug all lights, both indoor and outdoor, and
extinguish all candles every night before you go to bed.
Avoid using real candles on a tree because if the needles are dry, they can easily
catch fire. Never leave the room with taper candles or menorah candles burning —
it only takes a minute for a spark from a candle to burst into flames. Keep lit candles
away from windowsills and mantles and use only flame-retardant decorations when decking
Circuits that are overloaded with lights, decorations, and accessories can start
a fire. Don't overload indoor or outdoor electrical outlets.
Have your fireplace inspected before you light your first fire of the season.
A chimney professional can clean your fireplace and ensure that it is safe to use.
You can protect your family by using a sturdy fireplace screen when burning fires.
Never burn paper or pine boughs, since those materials can float out of the chimney
and ignite a nearby home or your own roof.
Practice fire safety, have a family
emergency plan in the event of a fire, and check smoke detectors before you put up
your holiday decorations. These steps will ensure that your family can celebrate many
holiday seasons to come.
A lot of cooking goes on during the holiday season, so there are many opportunities
for burns and scaldings. Keep pot handles turned away from the front of the stove
and always keep the oven door closed. To prevent accidents, watch your kids while
you bake or cook. Kitchen appliances should be clean to prevent potential fires.
Keep breakable ornaments out of young kids' reach — or keep them off the
tree until your children are older. If one does break, clean up the pieces quickly.
Car accidents and injuries to children
increase during the holiday season. Prevent a holiday ER visit by making sure that
kids are buckled up securely during car rides and don't drive after drinking
alcohol. And be extra cautious when traveling at night on holidays such as Christmas
Eve and New Year's Eve, when there is a higher incidence of impaired driving.
Sledding accidents can
be very serious. Young kids should be supervised and should avoid dangerous sledding
areas, such as rocky areas, steep hills, and crowded sledding hills.