The holidays are an exciting and busy time of year as parents race to finish their shopping, decorating and baking. As the countdown of the calendar year winds down, be sure to allow plenty of time in that hectic schedule for sharing holiday traditions as a family. Nationwide Children’s Hospital reminds parents to keep alert to various holiday dangers.
Holiday visits to homes of family and friends can be fun for children, but remember others’ homes may not be “childproof.” Keep an eye out for breakable items, medications, uncovered electrical outlets and other potential dangers within your child’s reach. During cold and flu season, remedies like cough syrups and antibiotics can often be found on counters or bedside tables. When guests enter your childproofed home, be aware of their own medications in open bags and alcoholic beverages and cigarettes within reach of curious infants and toddlers.
Avoid the temptation to wait until the next day to clean up after a holiday party. Just one or two ounces of alcohol left in the bottom of a glass can be fatal to a curious, early-rising toddler, and bits of food left on plates can be choking hazards, or even cause food poisoning or an allergic reaction.
Plants typically used for holiday decorating including holly, mistletoe, evergreens and poinsettias can be poisonous, depending on the quantities ingested. Eating holly berries, mistletoe berries or evergreens can make children sick with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or skin rash, and higher doses can be even more dangerous. Poinsettias are minimally toxic but can cause an upset stomach if ingested in large amounts. Pick up fallen leaves and needles and wrap mistletoe in netting to protect children from fallen berries.
Proactively check your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure your family’s and your guests’ safety at your home. Always keep emergency generators outside, and out of the garage to allow exhaust to dissipate. Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and tasteless, so the only way to know it is present is with a detector. Known as “the great pretender,” early signs of carbon monoxide poisoning mimic those of a cold or the flu.
You might easily forget about little dangers such as the tiny batteries used in cameras, calculators and other popular gifts, but these “button” batteries can cause serious health problems for children if swallowed. Store all batteries in a safe place. High-powered magnets and “magnet toys” also pose dangers to children, including teenagers. These toys (e.g. Buckyballs) have many powerful magnets small enough for a child to easily swallow several at once. Swallowing a magnet carries special risks if any other metal, including another magnet, has been swallowed, and can unfortunately lead to a life-threatening situation. They are attractive and creative toys, but potentially very dangerous and when swallowed, X-rays or even abdominal surgery to remove the magnets may be required. If a child swallows any of these items, the first step is to call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. Because these items are particularly dangerous, they could mean a trip to your doctor or hospital.
Have safety equipment in your shopping cart when purchasing gifts such as bikes, skateboards, rollerblades and hoverboards. Helmets, padding for the knees and elbows, and wrist guards are necessary for kids to stay safe while engaging in these activities.
Ornaments, tinsel and other decorations fascinate children but can be hazardous. Many are choking hazards, and broken ornaments can cause painful cuts.
Lights and candles are fire hazards. If you use electric lights, look for frayed or exposed wires, and make sure no wires are pinched by furniture and no cords run under rugs. Do not use the same extension cord for more than three strands of lights and turn off all lights before going to bed. When lighting candles, remove flammable materials from the area and never leave a burning candle unattended. The liquid in bubble lights and oil lamps can cause death if swallowed by a child. Immediately throw away a bubble light if it is cracked or broken. If you suspect that a child might have swallowed this liquid, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
Instructions for new toys should always be read to make sure toys are appropriate for your child’s age and abilities. Some toys may pose a choking hazard to children younger than 3 years of age. Toys that are too advanced or too simple can be misused and lead to injuries. Protect young eyes by avoiding toys that shoot objects into the air. Any child younger than 8 years of age needs close adult supervision if using riding toys that require balance, like foot-powered scooters. If you are giving a child a riding toy for the holidays, also give the child a helmet.
Do not underestimate the importance of a toy’s size. Parents can determine if a toy or toy part is a choking hazard for children younger than 3 years of age by placing it in a small parts test device available at many children’s toy stores and through mail order companies. Because small balls or ball-shaped toys pose an even more serious choking hazard, these should pass the more rigorous test of not being able to pass through a toilet paper tube that is 1 ¾ inches in diameter. A child’s doctor also can provide advice about what kinds of toys are appropriate if parents are unsure.
Always use a barrier such as a screen to protect against sparks from the fireplace, and make sure a fire is put out completely before leaving the house or going to bed.
Your attention is the best holiday gift you can give to your child. Involve children in holiday preparation as much as possible.
Sitters should be selected carefully when children can’t tag along to holiday parties. Be sure your babysitter knows whom to call in an emergency – including the numbers where you, fire and police departments, the local poison control center, your child’s doctor and other trusted adults can be reached.
To check whether the gifts you are giving or receiving have been recalled, visit www.recalls.gov.
For more information regarding child safety and injury prevention, please call the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital at 614-722-2400, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.injurycenter.org.
Contact the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital at 1-800-222-1222. A specially-trained pharmacist or nurse in the Poison Center is available 24 hours a day to talk about a suspected poisoning. For general poison information and to learn how to “poison-proof” your home, call the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s or visit www.bepoisonsmart.org.