Holiday Safety

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.

Trauma and Injury Prevention Experts at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan offer the following tips to protect little ones from some common holiday dangers, so you and your family can enjoy a season that's happy and healthy.


Safe Holiday Decorations

  • Mistletoe, holly, poinsettias, Jerusalem cherry plants and others – Can pose potential poisoning risks. Symptoms can include rash, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Call the National Poison Center at (800) 222-1222 if you suspect poisoning.
  • "Bubble lights" - Those containing methylene chlorides 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.
  • Small tree ornaments, light bulbs, icicles, tinsel, small toys and common holiday foods, such as peanuts or popcorn - Pose a potential holiday choking hazards if swallowed by small children, as these items may block the airway.
  • Holiday tree needles, angel hair (made from finely spun glass), ornament hangers – Can cause potential cuts, skin irritation or eye damage

Safe Holiday Feast

  • Food Poisoning - Minimize potential food poisoning 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. Store leftovers properly and heat them thoroughly before serving.
  • Alcohol poisoning - Remove all empty and partially empty cups out of reach of children. Remember, children become "drunk" much more quickly than adults, so even small amounts of alcohol can be dangerous.

Holiday Tree Safety

  • Live Trees - Keep your tree secured in a sturdy stand so that it doesn't tip over and keep it away from all heat sources such as electrical outlets, radiators, and portable space heaters. Replenish the water receptacle regularly to keep tree from drying out.
  • Artificial Tree – Be sure your artificial tree is labeled "fire-retardant."
  • Holiday Lights - Unplug all lights, both indoor and outdoor, and extinguish all candles every night before you go to bed.
  • Candles - Avoid using real candles on a tree and keep them away from windowsills and mantles. Never leave the room with single candles or menorah candles burning.
  • Decking your halls - Use only flame-retardant decorations when decking your halls.

Fire-free Holiday

  • Don't overload indoor or outdoor electrical outlets.
  • Have your fireplace inspected before you light your first fire of the season, and never burn paper or pine boughs, since those materials can float out of the chimney and ignite a nearby home.
  • Practice fire safety, have a family emergency and escape plan in the event of a fire.
  • Check smoke detectors before you put up your holiday decorations.

Accident-free Holiday

  • Keep pot handles turned away from the front of the stove and always keep the oven door closed. Keep a watchful eye on children while you bake or cook.
  • Keep breakable ornaments out of young kids' reach — or keep them off the tree until your children are older.
  • Parents can prevent a holiday ER visit by making sure the kids are buckled up securely during car rides and by not driving after drinking alcohol.
  • Young kids should be supervised and should avoid dangerous sledding areas, such as rocky areas, steep hills, and crowded sledding hills.

Safe Toy Shopping

  • Toys made of fabric should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Stuffed toys should be washable.
  • Painted toys should be covered with lead-free paint.
  • Art materials should say nontoxic.
  • Crayons and paints should say ASTM D-4236 on the package, which means that they've been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
  • Steer clear of older toys, even hand-me-downs from friends and family, as they may not meet current safety standards.
  • Make sure a toy isn't too loud for your child as it could contribute to hearing damage.
  • Always read labels to make sure a toy is appropriate for a child's age. Age levels for toys are determined by safety factors, not intelligence or maturity.

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