Did you know that in the two months around the Holiday season each year there are over 14,000 visits to emergency rooms due to injuries related to Holiday decorating?1 It’s true. Christmas tree fires account for hundreds of fires, an average of 15 deaths, and $13 million in property damage each year. Candle-related fires top the list of hazards, accounting for 1,000 injuries each year, 150 deaths, and nearly $400 million in property damage. Paying attention to potential hazards goes a long way to preventing injuries during the Holidays. Below are some hints and tips to keep your home and loved ones safe this season.
Prevent House Fires
Many people love to purchase cut or live trees to have in their homes for the Christmas season. The fresh pine scent and family tradition of having a tree to decorate resulted in $250 million in sales of cut trees in 2009, according to the latest data from the USDA Census of Horticultural Specialties.2 To help prevent having your tree catch on fire, make sure it has plenty of water, and keep it away from heat sources such as fireplaces or radiators that may dry it out faster. Automatic watering systems like Quench-A-Tree3, which looks like a wrapped gift, may help reduce the risk of a dry tree and fire hazard. If candles are lit in the home this season remember not to leave them unattended and make sure children have limited access to them to prevent an accidental fire. Check all wiring and lights used as decorations to make sure they’re in good working order too.
Getting into the Christmas Spirits
With the Holidays it is common to have Holiday parties where adult beverages may be served. Many mixed drinks have pretty colors or fruity flavors added and are quite attractive to children. Children may become poisoned easily with very little alcohol, so make sure guests do not leave drink glasses unattended or at a level where a child may access it. Unfinished drinks should also be discarded to avoid an unintentional incident by a child. In addition, it’s important to know your limit as an adult and not to overdo it during festivities. Remember to check to see if prescription and over-the-counter medications interact with alcohol, and do not drive under the influence. Your local poison control center (1-800-222-1222) can help if a child inadvertently gets into alcohol this season.
Holiday Food Hazards
Snacks such as peanuts or popcorn left out during the Holidays may pose as choking hazards for small children and are not recommended for kids under the age of 4 years. To prevent food poisoning make sure to wash your 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 serving4. It’s important to remember to keep our furry friends safe too. Chocolate used in baking is toxic to dogs and should be kept up away from where their noses and mouths can get to it. Symptoms range from nausea and vomiting to seizures and death. Dark and unsweetened chocolates have the highest risk for toxicity and milk chocolate the least. If you suspect your dog may have eaten too much chocolate contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.
Holiday Plant Hazards
Mistletoe, holly, poinsettias, Jerusalem cherry plants, boxwood, and various species of the yew 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. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not particularly toxic when ingested in small amounts however. If you suspect that your child has eaten any part of a plant, contact your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
Jan Scaglione, MT, PharmD, D.ABAT, Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center
1: Please see Consumer Product Safety Commission website: http://www.cpsc.gov
2: Please see http://www.agcensus.usda.gov
3: Please see http://www.quenchatree.com