The holiday season is upon us and many families are getting into the holiday spirit by decorating their homes, visiting friends and family, cooking and baking for get-togethers, and buying toys and gifts for their loved ones. Unfortunately, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement and not realize the potential injury risks some of these activities can have. The good news is that by being aware of the dangers and taking a few steps of precaution, many of these injuries can be prevented.
Size and material matter. Be aware of the size of the decorations you are placing around your home. Many small decorations can be choking hazards for young children. Other large decorations may have pieces that can break off into small, sharp pieces that can be quite dangerous. Either save these decorations for when your children are older or place them high out of reach.
Lights. Before hanging up lights – either on a tree or around the home – look for frayed and exposed wires. Replace any light strings that are not in good repair, and make sure you never plug more than three strands of lights into one extension cord.
Candles. Make sure to place candles on a high surface that cannot be reached by young children. Before lighting the candle, remove any potentially flammable materials. Unattended candles can be a danger, so make sure to blow out all lit candles before you leave a room.
Plants. Many plants, used for holiday decorating, can be poisonous for children and pets. Consider using artificial plants if young children or pets will be in your home over the holidays. If real plants will be used, place them out of reach and make sure to have the poison center number by your phone in case of an emergency. That number is 1-800-222-1222.
In the Kitchen
Pots and Pans. When possible, use the back burners first. If your pot or pan will be on the front burners, make sure to turn the handle away from the front of the stove.
Set up a kid-free zone. Set up a kid-free zone in the kitchen that extends at least 3 feet out from the oven to prevent potential burns.
Keep kids “cool.” Wait to have the kids help with kitchen tasks that aren’t near the stove until they are older. A fun, safe activity for the family can be decorating holiday cookies after they have cooled down.
Visiting Family and Friends
Child-proofing. Remember that not all homes you visit over the holidays will be child proof. When you arrive someplace new, do a quick check for potential dangers like breakables, uncovered electrical outlets and easily accessible poisons (plants, medications, household cleaners, etc).
Be a good guest. If there will be children in a home you are visiting, be aware of potential risks you are bringing with you.
If your purse has medication inside, make sure you place it somewhere out of reach.
If you will be drinking alcohol, don’t leave glasses with any alcohol left in them lying around.
Cameras, key fobs and singing holiday cards may use button batteries, which can be very dangerous to young children if swallowed. Be aware of where you place items like these.
Toys and Gifts
Follow age guidelines. Before purchasing a present for a child, check the packaging to make sure it is age appropriate.
Check for recalls. Toys get recalled. Check www.recalls.gov before giving a toy to make sure it has not been recalled.
Add protective gear. If you give a gift such as a bicycle, scooter or skateboard – remember to also give protective gear like a helmet and pads.
Dangers of adult gifts. Remember that many gifts, intended for adults, can be dangerous to young children in the home.
For most, the holidays are joyous times. Give your family the gift of safety by being aware of these potential dangers and taking the recommended steps to prevent injuries. We want your children home celebrating with you, not here with us.
Learn about more holiday safety tips, and be safe!
Tracy Mehan is the manager of translational research for the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
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